Pursuing Hard Truths in Syria

A U.N. agency says it found sarin in victims of an April 4 attack in Syria, but lack of a plausible weapon and unreliability of pro-rebel witnesses make the pursuit of truth difficult, says WMD expert Scott Ritter at The American Conservative.

By Scott Ritter

On the night of June 26, the White House Press Secretary released a statement, via Twitter, that, “the United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

Photograph of men in Khan Sheikdoun in Syria, allegedly inside a crater where a sarin-gas bomb landed.

The tweet went on to declare that, “the activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4 chemical weapons attack,” before warning that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

A Pentagon spokesman backed up the White House tweet, stating that U.S. intelligence had observed “activity” at a Syrian air base that indicated “active preparation for chemical weapons use” was underway.  The air base in question, Shayrat, had been implicated by the United States as the origin of aircraft and munitions used in an alleged chemical weapons attack on the village of Khan Sheikhun on April 4.  The observed activity was at an aircraft hangar that had been struck by cruise missiles fired by U.S. Navy destroyers during a retaliatory strike on April 6.

The White House statement came on the heels of the publication of an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in a German publication, Die Welt, which questions, among many things, the validity of the intelligence underpinning the allegations leveled at Syria regarding the events of April 4 in and around Khan Sheikhun. (In the interests of full disclosure, I had assisted Mr. Hersh in fact-checking certain aspects of his article; I was not a source of any information used in his piece.)

Not surprisingly, Mr. Hersh’s article has come under attack from many circles, the most vociferous of these being a U.K.-based citizen activist named Eliot Higgins who, through his Bellingcat blog, has been widely cited by media outlets in the U.S. and U.K. as a source of information implicating the Syrian government in that alleged April chemical attack on Khan Sheikhun.

Neither Hersh nor Higgins possesses definitive proof to bolster their respective positions; the latter draws upon assertions made by supposed eyewitnesses backed up with forensic testing of materials alleged to be sourced to the scene of the attack that indicate the presence of Sarin, a deadly nerve agent, while the former relies upon anonymous sources within the U.S. military and intelligence establishments who provide a counter narrative to the official U.S. government position. What is clear, however, is that both cannot be right — either the Syrian government conducted a chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhun, or it didn’t. There is no middle ground.

Search for Truth

The search for truth is as old as civilization. Philosophers throughout the ages have struggled with the difficulties of rationalizing the beginning of existence, and the relationships between the one and the many.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh

Aristotle approached this challenge through what he called the development of potentiality to actuality, which examined truth in terms of the causes that act on things. This approach is as relevant today as it was two millennia prior, and its application to the problem of ascertaining fact from fiction regarding Khan Sheikhun goes far in helping unpack the White House statements regarding Syrian chemical preparations and the Hersh-Higgins debate.

According to Aristotle, there were four causes that needed to be examined in the search for truth — material, efficient, formal and final. The material cause represents the element out of which an object is created. In terms of the present discussion, one could speak of the material cause in terms of the actual chemical weapon alleged to have been used at Khan Sheikhun.

The odd thing about both the Khan Sheikhun attack and the current White House statements, however, is that no one has produced any physical evidence of there actually having been a chemical weapon, let alone what kind of weapon was allegedly employed. Like a prosecutor trying a murder case without producing the actual murder weapon, Syria’s accusers have assembled a case that is purely circumstantial — plenty of dead and dying victims, but nothing that links these victims to an actual physical object.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), drawing upon analysis of images brought to them by the volunteer rescue organization White Helmets, of fragments allegedly recovered from the scene of the attack, has claimed that the material cause of the Khan Sheikhun event is a Soviet-made KhAB-250 chemical bomb, purpose-built to deliver Sarin nerve agent. There are several issues with the HRW assessment.

First and foremost, there is no independent verification that the objects in question are what HRW claims, or that they were even physically present at Khan Sheikhun, let alone deposited there as a result of an air attack by the Syrian government.  Moreover, the KhAB-250 bomb was never exported by either the Soviet or Russian governments, thereby making the provenance of any such ordinance in the Syrian inventory highly suspect.

Sarin is a non-persistent chemical agent whose military function is to inflict casualties through direct exposure. Any ordnance intended to deliver Sarin would, like the KhAB-250, be designed to disseminate the agent in aerosol form, fine droplets that would be breathed in by the victim, or coat the victim’s skin.

Deployment and Evidence

In combat, the aircraft delivering Sarin munitions would be expected to minimize its exposure to hostile fire, flying low to the target at high speed. In order to have any semblance of military utility, weapons delivered in this fashion would require an inherent braking mechanism, such as deployable fins or a parachute, which would retard the speed of the weapon, allowing for a more concentrated application of the nerve agent on the intended target.

Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins

Chemical ordnance is not intended for precise strikes against point targets, but rather delivery of the agent to an area. For this reason, they are not dropped singly, but rather in large numbers. (The ab-250, for instance was designed to be delivered by a TU-22 bomber dropping 24 weapons on the same target.)

The weapon itself is not complex — a steel bomb casing with a small high explosive tube — the burster charge — running down its middle, equipped with a nose fuse designed to detonate on contact with the ground or at a pre-determined altitude. Once detonated, the burster charge causes the casing to break apart, disseminating fine droplets of agent over the target. The resulting explosion is very low order, a pop more than a bang — virtually none of the actual weapon would be destroyed as a result, and its component parts, readily identifiable as such, would be deposited in the immediate environs.

In short, if a KhAB-250, or any other air delivered chemical bomb, had been used at Khan Sheikhun, there would be significant physical evidence of that fact, including the totality of the bomb casing, the burster tube, the tail fin assembly, and parachute. The fact that none of this exists belies the notion that an air-delivered chemical bomb was employed by the Syrian government against Khan Sheikhun.

Continuing along the lines of Aristotle’s exploration of the relationship between the potential and actual, the efficient cause represents the means by which the object is created. In the context of Khan Shiekhun, the issue (i.e., object) isn’t the physical weapon itself, but rather its manifestation on the ground in terms of cause and effect. Nothing symbolized this more than the disturbing images that emerged in the aftermath of the alleged chemical attack of civilian victims, many of them women and children. (It was these images that spurred President Trump into ordering the cruise missile attack on Shayrat air base.)

The White Helmet Role

These images were produced by the White Helmet organization as a byproduct of the emergency response that transpired in and around Khan Sheikhun on April 4. It is this response, therefore, than can be said to constitute the efficient cause in any examination of potential to actuality regarding the allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government there.

A White Helmets volunteer pointing to the aftermath of a military attack.

The White Helmets came into existence in the aftermath of the unrest that erupted in Syria after the Arab Spring in 2012. They say they are neutral, but they have used their now-global platform as a humanitarian rescue unit to promote anti-regime themes and to encourage outside intervention to remove the regime of Bashar al-Assad. By White Helmet’s own admission, it is well-resourced, trained and funded by western NGOs and governments, including USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), which funded the group $23 million as of 2016.

A U.K.-based company with strong links to the British Foreign Office, May Day Rescue, has largely managed the actual rescue aspects of the White Helmet’s work. Drawing on a budget of tens of millions of dollars donated by foreign governments, including the U.S. and U.K., May Day Rescue oversees a comprehensive training program designed to bring graduates to the lowest standard — ”light,” or Level One — for Urban Search and Rescue (USAR).

Personnel and units trained to the “light” standard are able to conduct surface search and rescue operations — they are neither trained nor equipped to rescue entrapped victims. Teams trained to this standard are not qualified to perform operations in a hazardous environment (such as would exist in the presence of a nerve agent like Sarin).

The White Helmets have made their reputation through the dissemination of self-made videos ostensibly showing them in action inside Syria, rescuing civilians from bombed-out structures, and providing life-saving emergency medical care. (It should be noted that the eponymously named Oscar-nominated documentary showing the White Helmets in action was filmed entirely by the White Helmets themselves, which raises a genuine question of journalistic ethics.)

Doubts About Videos

To the untrained eye, these videos are a dramatic representation of heroism in action. To the trained professional (I can offer my own experience as a Hazardous Materials Specialist with New York Task Force 2 USAR team), these videos represent de facto evidence of dangerous incompetence or, worse, fraud.

Another photo of the crater containing the alleged canister that supposedly disbursed sarin in Khan Sheikdoun, Syria, on April 4, 2017.

The bread and butter of the White Helmet’s self-made reputation is the rescue of a victim — usually a small child — from beneath a pile of rubble, usually heavy reinforced concrete. First and foremost, as a “light” USAR team, the White Helmets are not trained or equipped to conduct rescues of entrapped victims. And yet the White Helmet videos depict their rescue workers using excavation equipment and tools, such as pneumatic drills, to gain access to victims supposedly pinned under the weight of a collapsed building.

The techniques used by the White Helmets are not only technically wrong, but dangerous to anyone who might actually be trapped — the introduction of excavators to move debris, or the haphazard drilling and hammering into concrete in the immediate vicinity of a trapped victim, would invariably lead to a shifting if the rubble pile, crushing the trapped victim to death. In my opinion, the videos are pure theater, either staged to impress an unwitting audience, or actually conducted with total disregard for the wellbeing of any real victims.

Likewise, the rescue of victims from a hazardous materials incident, especially one as dangerous as one involving a nerve agent as lethal as Sarin, is solely the purview of personnel and teams specifically equipped and trained for the task. “Light” USAR teams receive no hazardous materials training as part of their certification, and there is no evidence or even claim on the part of the White Helmets that they have undergone the kind of specialist training needed to effect a rescue in the case of an actual chemical weapons attack.

Greater Harm

This reality comes through on the images provided by the White Helmets of their actions in and around Khan Sheikhun on April 4. From the haphazard use of personal protective equipment (either non-existent or employed in a manner that negates protection from potential exposure) to the handling of victims and so-called decontamination efforts, everything the White Helmets did was operationally wrong and would expose themselves and the victims they were ostensibly treating to even greater harm.

President Trump delivers his brief speech to the nation explaining his decision to launch a missile strike against Syria on April 6, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

As was the case with their “rescues” of victims in collapsed structures, I believe the rescue efforts of the White Helmets at Khan Sheikhun were a theatrical performance designed to impress the ignorant and ill-informed.

I’m not saying that nothing happened at Khan Sheikhun — obviously something did. But the White Helmets exploited whatever occurred, over-dramatizing “rescues” and “decontamination” in staged theatrics that were captured on film and rapidly disseminated using social media in a manner designed to influence public opinion in the West.

We don’t see the actual rescue at the scene of the event — bodies pulled from their homes, lying in the streets. What we get is grand theater as bodies arrive at the field hospital, with lots of running to and fro and meaningless activity that would actually worsen the condition of the victims and contaminate the rescuers.

Through their actions, however, the White Helmets were able to breathe life into the overall narrative of a chemical weapons attack, distracting from the fact that no actual weapon existed and thus furthering the efficient cause by which the object — the non-existent chemical weapon — was created.

Having defined the creation of the object (the non-existent chemical weapon) and the means by which it was created (the flawed theatrics of the White Helmets), we move on to the third, or formal cause, which constitutes the expression of what the object is. In the case of Khan Sheikhun, this is best expressed by the results of forensic testing of samples allegedly taken from victims of the chemical attack, and from the scene of the attack itself. The organization responsible for overseeing this forensic testing was the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW.

The Missing Bomb

Through its work, the OPCW has determined that the nerve agent Sarin, or a “Sarin-like substance,” was used at Khan Sheikhun, a result that would seemingly compensate for both the lack of a bomb and the amateurish theatrics of the rescuers.

A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.

The problem, however, is that the OPCW is in no position to make the claim it did.

One of the essential aspects of the kind of forensic investigation carried out by organizations such as the OPCW — namely the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of a crime — is the concept of “chain of custody” of any samples that are being evaluated.

This requires a seamless transition from the collection of the samples in question, the process of which must be recorded and witnessed, the sealing of the samples, the documentation of the samples, the escorted transportation of the samples to the laboratory, the confirmation and breaking of the seals under supervision, and the subsequent processing of the samples, all under supervision of the OPCW. Anything less than this means the integrity of the sample has been compromised — in short, there is no sample.

The OPCW acknowledges that its personnel did not gain access to Khan Sheikhun at any time. However, the investigating team states that it used connections with “parties with knowledge of and connections to the area in question,” to gain access to samples that were collected by “non governmental organizations (NGOs)” which also provided representatives to be interviewed, and videos and images for the investigating team to review. The NGO used by the OPCW was none other than the White Helmets.

The process of taking samples from a contaminated area takes into consideration a number of factors designed to help create as broad and accurate a picture of the scene of the incident itself as well as protect the safety of the person taking the sample as well as the integrity of the crime scene itself (i.e., reduce contamination).

There is no evidence that the White Helmets have received this kind of specialized training required for the taking of such samples. Moreover, the White Helmets are not an extension of the OPCW — under no circumstances could any samples taken by White Helmet personnel and subsequently turned over to the OPCW be considered viable in terms of chain of custody. This likewise holds true for any biomedical samples evaluated by the OPCW — all such samples were either taken from victims who had been transported to Turkish hospitals, or provided by non-OPCW personnel in violation of chain of custody.

The Dubious Motive

Lastly, there is Aristotle’s final cause, which represents the end for which the object is — namely, what was the ultimate purpose of the chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhun. To answer this question, one must remain consistent with the framework of examination of potential to actuality applied herein. In this, we find a commonality between the four causes whose linkage cannot be ignored when assessing the truth of what happened at Khan Sheikhun, namely the presence of a single entity — the White Helmets.

U.S.-backed Syrian “moderate” rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]

There are two distinct narratives at play when it comes to what happened in Khan Sheikhun. One, put forward by the governments of the United States, Great Britain, France, and supported by the likes of Bellingcat and the White Helmets, is that the Syrian government conducted a chemical weapons attack using a single air-delivered bomb on a civilian target.

The other, put forward by the governments of Russia and Syria, and sustained by the reporting of Seymour Hersh, is that the Syrian air force used conventional bombs to strike a military target, inadvertently releasing a toxic cloud from substances stored at that facility and killing or injuring civilians in Khan Sheikhun.

There can be no doubt that the very survival of the White Helmets as an organization, and the cause they support (i.e., regime change in Syria), has been furthered by the narrative they have helped craft and sell about the events of April 4 in and around Khan Sheikhun. This is the living manifestation of Aristotle’s final cause, the end for which this entire lie has been constructed.

The lack of any meaningful fact-based information to back up the claims of the White Helmets and those who sustain them, like the U.S. government and Bellingcat, raises serious questions about the viability of the White House’s latest pronouncements on Syria and allegations that it was preparing for a second round of chemical attacks.

If America has learned anything from its painful history with Iraq and the false allegations of continued possession of weapons of mass destruction on the part of the regime of Saddam Hussein, it is that to rush into military conflict in the Middle East based upon the unsustained allegations of an interested regional party (i.e., Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress) is a fool’s errand.

It is up to the discerning public to determine which narrative about the events in Syria today they will seek to embrace — one supported by a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who has made a career out of exposing inconvenient truths, from My Lai to Abu Ghraib and beyond, or one that collapses under Aristotle’s development of potentiality to actuality analysis, as the manufactured story line promoted by the White Helmets demonstratively does.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.  He is the author of “Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War” (Clarity Press, 2017). [This article originally appeared in The American Conservative at http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/ex-weapons-inspector-trumps-sarin-claims-built-on-lie/]

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74 comments for “Pursuing Hard Truths in Syria

  1. Dorothy Hoobler
    July 2, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Thank you Scott RItter for a first-rate article. News is spreading about the Seymour Hersh article.

  2. Sally Snyder
    July 2, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    As shown in this article, the United States is using ammunition in Syria that is adding to the already significant problems that Syrians are facing:

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.ca/2017/02/the-united-states-and-cancer-of-warfare.html

    Apparently, the lessons taught in Iraq have been forgotten.

    • mike k
      July 2, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      Conveniently forgotten.

    • Daniel
      July 3, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Sally, I would argue that the lessons of Iraq (and Afghanistan and Yugoslavia and Libya and Iran and Guatemala, etc. etc. etc.) have been well-learned. That is, I cannot see the US (AAZ Empire) consistently carrying out the same policies with the same results ever since the end of WW II as “mistakes.” These policies strike me as evil beyond the comprehension of people of good will to even imagine, but deliberate.

      Typical of psychopaths.

  3. Sam F
    July 2, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    In addition to these arguments, it should be noted that chemical weapons are not in fact different from other weapons causing deaths on this scale. While large wind-blown gas clouds have been used to cause massive battlefield deaths in larger wars with fixed troop positions, the smaller chemical weapons releases of individual rockets or bombs have not caused more civilian casualties, nor more indiscriminate casualties, than other weapons including so-called smart weapons. This is because the Mideast conflicts are insurgencies where holdouts are mixed with urban civilians, so that any weapon kills many civilians. So the claims of horror at CW use are pretenses and distractions.

    That is significant because the Obama admin declared chemical weapons usage a “red line” despite using other weapons causing similar civilian casualties. The cooperation of the Syrian government in destroying such weapons, and the subsequent use of such weapons near Damascus while a UN CW inspector was actually there, showed clearly that these were rebel false-flag attacks to falsely blame the Syrian government for crossing that red line.

    In the Khan Sheikhun case, the evidence-free retaliation by the US showed intent to set up and exploit the false-flag incident. The continued declaration of Trump that this is a red line, despite much greater civilian casualties in Mosul with other weapons, shows that this is a continuing pretense and a false-flag setup for retaliations.

    • July 2, 2017 at 11:22 pm

      In the CF (as I knew it) the SOP on seeing people dropping to the ground and doing the “funky chicken,” if you were not TOPP High already, “kiss your ass goodbye, cause your next.”
      If indeed there was a sarin nerve agent used any white helmeted douchebag rushing to the scene would suddenly drop and begin twitching as the gas attacked his spine and brain, vomiting, and soiling themselves.
      In the video evidence, the suspect bearded doctors moving corpses, and treating supposed victims of a sarin gas attack, they would be dying themselves, the symptoms would not take long to show up.
      Clearly a piss poor false flag operation.

  4. Joe Tedesky
    July 2, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I must praise consortiumnews for it’s having Scott Ritter write this article, and for posting it here. I wish more Americans would have taken Mr Ritter more seriously than it did before invading Iraq over WMD’s. When people say how our MSM is nothing more than a propaganda mill, then all you need to do to prove this point, is show how Scott Ritter has been ban from all MSM reporting. After all the noise that Scott Ritter made over going to war with Iraq, the MSM is not going to allow that kind of thing to happen any more than it already had back in 2003. So good on you Robert Parry, because having such people as Scott Ritter write on this site, is all the more reason to support this wonderful news place. Thank you Joe

    • mike k
      July 2, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      Scott Ritter has been a hero of mine since his work to try to prevent the Iraq war, He showed a lot of courage, and took a lot of flack for telling the truth in the face of overwhelming administration and MSM lies.

      • Joe Tedesky
        July 2, 2017 at 2:56 pm

        I agree. Scott Ritter must truly love this country, because for all that the system has put him through no one would blame Scott for if he were to denounce his citizenship, and live elsewhere. I thank God that we still have such people as Scott Ritter, who continue to try and warn us all of what our government is up to.

  5. Abe
    July 2, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    July 1
    https://twitter.com/EliotHiggins/status/881545973859835904
    “Nothing in the OPCW report comes even the slightest bit close to confirming Hersh’s claims, and actively debunks them.”

    • Abe
      July 2, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Contrary to the media spin from Eliot Higgins and Dan Kaszeta of Bellingcat, the New York Times and other “First Draft” coalition propaganda organs, and the US State Department, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission (FFM) recent report “confirming” that sarin or a sarin-like substance was used in the 4 April 2017 incident in Khan Shaykhun, Syria did not claim that the incident involved chemical weapons use by the Syrian government.

      Nor does the OPCW FFM report invalidate the claims of investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in his recent article in Die Welt.

      What is clear from the previous reports of the OPCW FFM in Syria (hosted within the United Nations Documentation System) is that the OPCW did not take direct samples and had no control over the chain of custody (CoC) to establish that autopsied bodies and biological-environmental substances in evidence were in fact from the alleged chemical incident.

      The most recent status update letter dated 18 May 2017 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council clearly stated that the OPCW FFM team members merely “attended autopsies” of bodies presented as alleged “victims” of the incident.

      In addition, the May 2017 update from the OPCW FFM stated that “At the time of handover, the team was informed that all samples were taken by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)” and that videos and photographs from the scene of the alleged incident were provided by a “representative from an NGO”.

      Western-backed NGOs such as the White Helmets organization are known collaborators with the Al Qaeda terrorists forces that are occupying territory in Idlib and other areas of Syria.

  6. Abe
    July 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    July 2
    https://twitter.com/EliotHiggins/status/881546019808432128
    Dismissing the concerns about the OPCW lack of chain of custody, Higgins maps out a “nonsense” false flag scenario then labels it “pants on the head crazy”

    • john wilson
      July 3, 2017 at 4:32 am

      Its a puzzle to me why the OPCW actually gave any pronouncement on this matter at all considering they were unable to conduct any kind of meaningful investigation them selves. Their report is based on hearsay and wouldn’t stand up in a court of law.

  7. jfl
    July 2, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    the ucpw has nothing. it has no direct evidence at all. what it has has come from al-cia-duh on the ground. it knows it has nothing yet it has made the statements it has made. all the international agencies have been subverted by the usa, from the eUNuchs at the un to the EUnuchs at the eu. the tnc msm are their stenographers.

    the past 16 years have seen a series of us aggressions based on lies just like this. the new american century has had a longer run than the third reich, although it’s ‘only’ killed 2 million or so innocents so far there is no qualitative difference. aggression is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole, and it has contained within itself the death, devastation, destruction, and deceit of afghanistan, iraq, libya, syria, yemen, ukraine … and rages now, threatening iran and north korea.

    our us of a is a rogue country, the number one terrorist nation on earth today, operating directly through the cia and through its proxies. its hard to see how our country will survive this dark night of the neocons. six nations destroyed so far …

    all for what? at the end of the day there is no conceivable benefit for us americans at all. certainly none for our victims.

    • mike k
      July 2, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Yes. Thank you for your forthright clarity.

  8. Abe
    July 2, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Before the 21 August 2013 chemical incident at Ghouta, before Dan Kaszeta was promoted to international stardom as an “expert”, way back when he was a mere “specialist” and “US Army Chemical Corps veteran”, Brown Moses blog published a discussion of those alleged Saraqib “grenades” the French have been furiously twittering about.
    http://brown-moses.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/chemical-weapon-specialists-talk-sarin.html

    Q: “Considering the various information gathered about these grenades is it likely they would have contained Sarin?”

    Kaszeta: “Not really”

    Q: “Is it possible the could have contained another substance that could have caused symptoms seen in the victims of the attack?”

    Kaszeta: “In the grenades? Seems far fetched”

    On 27 April 2017, a nostalgic Eliot Higgins has reposted his Brown Moses blog “analysis” of the 29 April 2013 chemical incident at Saraqeb

    Higgins’ “analysis” repeatedly mentions the “smell” of the Saraqeb incident.

    In his discussion of alleged “Devices used in the attack”, Higgins states that “The smell at the scene of the attack is described to the BBC as being very strong”.

    Higgins presents a statement from the video report: “It was a horrible, suffocating smell. You couldn’t breathe at all. Your body would become really tired.”

    Higgins presents another statement from video that “These are smelly, and a lot of them were used.”.

    “In this video it’s stated ‘These are smelly, and a lot of them were used.’.”

    Higgins later provides a lengthy quote from the BBC video:

    “I was not present then, but the FSA members came here and said that those chemicals were dropped on the southwestern side of the town. The injuries varies from bad to minor. The symptoms include constriction of the pupil, forth around the mouth, complete loss of consciousness as result of (inhaling) the smoke. The smoke was smelly, and the guy who rushed to help the victims lost consciousness when he got to the site.”

    Probably thinking we may have missed the early quote about how horrible the smell was, Higgins goes to the trouble of repeating the quote:

    ““It was a horrible, suffocating smell. You couldn’t breathe at all. Your body would become really tired.”

    Unfortunately for those alleged “eyewitnesses”, the BBC and its Google-sponsored “First Draft” coalition media “partners”, the French government, Higgins and his pal Dan Kaszeta, none of whom can read, chemical science texts describe the odor of sarin.

    When pure, Sarin is odorless.

    When impure or contaminated, Sarin may have a slightly fruity odor, similar to a weak ethyl acetate solution.

    Neither pure nor impure Sarin produce a “horrible, suffocating smell”.

    Sarin is not capable of “producing strong smells”.

    Sarin does not smell “like rotten eggs”, “overpowering”, “like cooking gas”, or “like rotten food”.

    Based on three confirmed incidents of Al Qaeda controlled “eyewitness” tales of “strong smells” we can debunk any claims that Sarin is being described by these individuals.

    However, the very strong odor of Al Qaeda “chemical realities” continues to emanate from gaslighting experts Higgins and Kaszeta.

  9. July 2, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Fair Play IS are not just killers they are a rainbow of all skills and professions dedicated to the same end victory my any and all means. Then if the USA, and Russia are dragged into a war maybe via Iran or blind sided by treaties exactly like WW 1, do you think IS can’t stage a red flag on a gas attack ? The big question remains who wins, who would rise in the chaos of a war IS, the terrorist’s are all armed to the teeth, It’s not rocket science. Some one is pushing the buttons and it’s not the USA or Russia who are intent on killing this evil cancer that is killing the world but we can’t see it, or don’t want to unite, fight, this is bigger than the Nazi’s can’t be over looked.

    • mike k
      July 2, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      Try writing more simply and clearly, beginning with “Fair Play IS” – what the hell are you talking about. And over all, what is your point? just spell it out in a simple sentence.

  10. Abe
    July 2, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    The 4 April 2017 Khan Shaykhun incident in an Al Qaeda controlled area of Idlib was obviously perpetrated for maximum propaganda effect to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention, that entered into force and becoming binding international law on 29 April 1997.

    Disinformation produced by fake “chemical weapons expert” Dan Kaszeta and fake “citizen investigative journalist” Eliot Higgins of the UK-based Bellingcat blog made its way into the 11 April 2017 Trump White House’s “assessment” of the Khan Shakhun incident.

    Kaszeta is now backing evidence free “Israeli intelligence” claims about Syria.

    A 19 April 2017 Israeli “assessment” presented by anonymous military officials included evidence free claims that Syrian military commanders has ordered the Khan Shaukun attack with President Assad’s knowledge and “estimates” that Syria still has “between one and three tons” of chemical weapons.

    The Associated Press report on the Israeli military briefing included an interview with Kaszeta, who said the Israeli estimate appeared to be “conservative”. Kaszeta claimed that “One ton of sarin could easily be used to perpetrate an attack on the scale of the 2013 attack. It could also be used for roughly 10 attacks of a similar size to the recent Khan Sheikhoun attack”.

    Back in 2013, Kaszeta backed similar evidence free claims by Israeli defense officials.

    The U.S. Intelligence Community is responsible for gathering and analyzing the intelligence necessary to conduct foreign relations and national security activities.

    The ability of the President and the Secretary of Defense to understand and respond to specific threats as quickly as possible is severely compromised by the production of “Government Assessment” documents based on inaccurate information.

    Of urgent concern is the body of information used to manufacture “Government Assessment” documents. The United States Government’s assessment of the Khan Shaykhun chemical incident relied heavily on “videos”, “social media reports” and “journalist accounts” from Bellingcat.

    Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is defined by both the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), as “produced from publicly available information that is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement.”

    OSINT is intelligence collected from publicly available sources. In the Intelligence Community, the term “open” refers to overt, publicly available sources (as opposed to covert or clandestine sources).

    The US Intelligence Community’s open-source activities (known as the National Open Source Enterprise) are dictated by Intelligence Community Directive 301 promulgated by the Director of National Intelligence.

    The “Government Assessment” political documents employed by the White House in August 2013 and July 2014 appear to have relied on an extra-governmental species of “open source intelligence” largely supplied by bloggers based in the United Kingdom.

    Assessments of chemical use in Syria in 2013 (Brown Moses blog) and the downing of Flight MH17 and its aftermath in 2014 (Bellingcat blog) were supplied by UK citizen Higgins of Leicester.

    Higgins’ collaborator Dan Kaszeta, a US-UK dual national based in London, provided additional claims of “chemical attacks” in Syria for both the Brown Moses and Bellingcat blogs.

    Since 2013, Kaszeta and Higgins have continued to make ever more dramatic claims about “chemical attacks” in Syria.

    Following the the 4 April 2017 chemical incident at Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, Kaszeta was cited as a go-to “expert” by the BBC, UK Guardian, CNN, Time magazine, Washngton Post. NPR, Germany’s Die Welt and Deutsche Welle, Business Insider, Popular Science, Asia Times and the Associated Press.

    Not content with merely quoting Kaszeta, BBC News online went so far as to publish an essay authored by Kaszeta titled “Syria ‘chemical attack’: What can forensics tell us?” At the end of his BBC News essay, in a furtive effort to quickly “tie the whole narrative together”, Kaszata mentioned that “In 2013, the chemical hexamine, used as an additive, was a critical piece of information linking the Ghouta attack to the government of President Assad.” This intriguing tidbit linked to a December 2013 New York Times article quoting Kaszeta’s own claims about the “very damning evidence” of hexamine.

    However, Kaszeta’s claims about hexamine were already debunked in 2014. Kaszeta continues to claim that Hexamine was used in the 2013 Ghouta attack, despite evidence that Hexamine is not soluble in alcohols, making it ineffective for this purpose.

    Analysis of all primary and secondary evidence relating to the 21 August 2013 chemical incident at Ghouta indicates it was carried out by Al Qaeda terrorist forces (Al Nusra Front or Jabhat al Nusra, also known as the Jabhat Fateh al Sham).

    Analysis of evidence relating to the 4 April 2017 chemical incident at Khan Shaykhun indicates it was carried out by Al Qaeda terrorist forces (Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, the latest rebranding of Al Nusra).

    Higgins and Kaszeta have vigorously backed the narrative of an “air-dropped Sarin bomb” in the Khan Shaykhun incident.

    However, none of Kaszeta’s articles on Bellingcat, nor any of the numerous citations of Kaszeta by mainstream media, address the complete absence of evidence of an aerial bomb.

    The alleged “Sarin bomb” hole in the road in Idlib has been photographed numerous times from multiple angles. The size, depth and shape of the hole are clear evidence that it was not produced by a falling object such as an air-dropped bomb.

    MIT physicist Theodore A. Postol reviewed the White House report on the alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib, Syria. He noted that the only source the cited as evidence of Syrian government responsibility for the attack was the crater on a road in Khan Shaykhun.

    Postol concluded that the US government failed to provide evidence that it had any concrete knowledge that the Syrian government was the source of the chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017.

    Postol accurately identified the amateurish nature of the White House report:

    “No competent analyst would assume that the crater cited as the source of the sarin attack was unambiguously an indication that the munition came from an aircraft. No competent analyst would assume that the photograph of the carcass of the sarin canister was in fact a sarin canister. Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it. All of these highly amateurish mistakes indicate that this White House report… was not properly vetted by the intelligence community as claimed.’

    Postol concluded:

    “I have worked with the intelligence community in the past, and I have grave concerns about the politicization of intelligence that seems to be occurring with more frequency in recent times – but I know that the intelligence community has highly capable analysts in it. And if those analysts were properly consulted about the claims in the White House document they would have not approved the document going forward.

    “We again have a situation where the White House has issued an obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence report.”

    Postol told The Nation, “What I think is now crystal clear is that the White House report was fabricated and it certainly did not follow the procedures it claimed to employ.” He added, “My best guess at the moment is that this was an extremely clumsy and ill-conceived attempt to cover up the fact that Trump attacked Syria without any intelligence evidence that Syria was in fact the perpetrator of the attack”.

    Israel has a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia and GCC backers of the Al Qaeda terrorists who have conducted numerous Chemical Weapons (CW) attacks in Syria.

    Israel possesses the means, the motive, and abundant opportunity to supply Sarin nerve agents and other chemical weapons to the Al Qaeda forces in Syria for the purpose of staging false flag chemical attacks.

    The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), an Israeli government defense research facility near Tel Aviv, develops offensive chemical and biological weapons including Sarin.The IIBR facility was involved in an extensive effort to identify practical methods of synthesis for nerve gases (such as Tabun, Sarin, and VX) and other chemical weapons compounds.

    The 26 April 2017 French “National Evaluation” included evidence free claims of a “Clandestine Syrian chemical weapons programme” based on “allegations” of Syrian “chemical use” laundered by Higgins and Kaszeta. The French purportedly based their conclusions on “analysis” of the 29 April 2013 chemical incident at Saraqeb, also in Al Qaeda controlled Idlib.

    BBC News video report of the Saraqeb incident described the smell at the scene as being very strong. The strong odor of alleged aerial “grenades” was described in a statement from the BBC video: “These are smelly, and a lot of them were used.”

    Another lengthy statement from the BBC report on the 2013 Saraqeb incident: “I was not present then, but the FSA members came here and said that those chemicals were dropped on the southwestern side of the town. The injuries varies from bad to minor. The symptoms include constriction of the pupil, forth around the mouth, complete loss of consciousness as result of (inhaling) the smoke. The smoke was smelly, and the guy who rushed to help the victims lost consciousness when he got to the site.”

    Al Qaeda controlled “eyewitness” tales of “strong smells” during alleged “air attacks” indicate that Sarin is not being described by these individuals.

    Pure Sarin is odorless. Impure or contaminated Sarin may have a slightly fruity odor. Neither pure nor impure Sarin produce a “horrible, suffocating smell”.

    Sarin is not capable of producing “strong” or “overpowering” odors like “rotten eggs”, “cooking gas”, or “rotten food”.

    Evidence pointing to possible collusion between Ifake “citizen journalist” bloggers like Higgins and Kaszeta at Bellingcat, and senior officials in the American, Israeli, and French governments represents a grave national security concern for the United States.

  11. July 2, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    I encourage interested readers to Google “The Sane Progresive white helmits.”

  12. Kant
    July 2, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Please be aware that your coalition is killing hundreds of civilians every day in Mosul already for months. These chemical weapons preparations allegations now are mainly to distract from the humanitarian disaster going on in Mosul. And as there is almost no news coverage about it, it seems to work pretty well. Besides it helps to keep the image of Assad being a monster who deserves the same fate like Saddam or Gaddafi.
    There are no weapons factories in the Near East that could produce enough to support the fighting parties there. Without the western countries delivering weapons to all of them this war would already be over for years, because they would only have left some slingshots.

    • Gregory Herr
      July 2, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      (Washington, DC) – The use of artillery-delivered white phosphorus by the United States-led coalition fighting Islamic State (also known as ISIS) forces in Syria and Iraq raises serious questions about the protection of civilians, Human Rights Watch said today. This multipurpose munition should never be used as an incendiary weapon to attack personnel or materiel in populated areas, even when delivered from the ground.
      “No matter how white phosphorus is used, it poses a high risk of horrific and long-lasting harm in crowded cities like Raqqa and Mosul and any other areas with concentrations of civilians,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “US-led forces should take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm when using white phosphorus in Iraq and Syria.”

      White phosphorus munitions can be used for several purposes on the battlefield: as an obscurant or smoke screen, for signaling and marking, and as an incendiary weapon. US forces are using white phosphorus in both Mosul, in Iraq, and in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, in Syria. But the rationale for its use by US-led coalition forces is unclear as the coalition does not comment on specific incidents.”

      Human Rights Watch was not able to independently verify whether the use of the munitions resulted in any civilian casualties. A Raqqa resident living in Beirut told the New York Times that an internet cafe in Raqqa was recently hit by white phosphorus, killing around 20 people.”

      https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/14/iraq/syria-danger-us-white-phosphorus

  13. Abe
    July 2, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    “US plans to use seized and occupied territory in Syria to perpetuate, not end the Syrian conflict have been worked on openly for years under only the most tenuous veneer of propaganda – the same propaganda used to sell ‘mission accomplished’ after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, but before now over a decade of disorder that has stalked the nation-state of Iraq and its neighbors.

    “In reality, the ‘defeat’ of ISIS in eastern Syria by US-backed forces is not the first step toward a hopeful future for Syrians, but the first step toward replicating the protracted and costly conflicts that are currently consuming Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and to a lesser extent, Ukraine, the Balkans, and beyond.”

    US Media Sells Disorder in Eastern Syria
    By Tony Cartalucci
    http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2017/07/us-media-sells-disorder-in-eastern-syria.html

  14. ranney
    July 2, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you Scott; this is a great article! You have done what so few writers do, which is explain the technical facts about bombs (for example), how they are made, how they are deployed etc. without drowning us in unnecessary detail, so that we can actually assess what is being left out of other narratives. Often, when I read some news report where technical things are part of the story, I am unable to figure out where the truth lies because the technical details are either left out or are explained in such a way as to be no help to someone who is not familiar with the technical words used in the explanation.
    Your additional information on the White Helmets also helps to add to my conviction that these are evil people we are supporting with our tax dollars. Next to giving Obama the Nobel Peace prize, giving these people an Oscar is one of the most dispiriting and stupid things our media has done lately. I wonder if they can take it back – or undo it.
    Scott I hope we will see more of your writing here or on other sites. Yours is a valuable voice we need to hear more frequently.

  15. July 2, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    I’m glad that some people still care about the evidence and don’t blindly accept anything the administration is saying no matter how implausible. In case someone is interested, I wrote a very detailed blog post, in which I examine the evidence about the recent chemical attack and compare the situation with what happened after the chemical attack in Ghouta in August 2013. I argue that, in that previous case, the media narrative had rapidly unravelled and that, for that reason, we should be extremely prudent about the recent attack and not jump to conclusions. It’s more than 5,000 words long and I provide a source for every single factual claim I make. I really believe it’s the most thorough discussion of the allegations against Assad with respect to his alleged use of chemical weapons out there. This post was shared widely and some people criticized it, so I will publish a follow-up in a few days, in which I respond to critics and discuss even more evidence.

  16. Abe
    July 2, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    “A glaring example of one of the major pitfalls emerging in supposed ‘new media’ has arisen during the conflict in Syria. Most notably in the form of YouTube blogger, and self-proclaimed weapons expert Eliot Higgins, aka ‘Brown Moses’. The clique of highly ideological analysts, think-tankers and journalists Higgins’ regularly works with and consults – alongside the dubiously funded western NGO’s he receives payment from – provide a stark indication as to the factions within the corporate media circus this supposedly independent blogger is operating in unison with.

    “Higgins has provided the western corporate media apparatus the opportunity to present its war-propaganda as having a “new media” facade of impartial legitimacy. Yet it is the same capitalistic ‘old media’ apparatus endlessly promoting his work – consisting of scouring Jihadist war-porn and agitprop on YouTube for tidbits that may bolster corporate media narratives – as an invaluable tool in tracking human rights abuses, arms trafficking, and risk-free coverage of fast evolving conflicts. Yet contrary to the innocuous portrayal of an unemployed YouTube addict in Leicester becoming a credible analyst of a conflict in the Middle East; Higgins’ blog has been thrust into the foreground not through the benefit of impartiality or public appraisals, but through corporate ‘benefactors’ with vested interest operating alongside the same ‘old media’ organisations and stenographers.

    “Bloggers such as Higgins promoting themselves as working from an impartial standpoint are actually nothing of the sort and work in complete unison with mainstream journalists and western NGO’s – both in a practical capacity, and an ideological one. As noted at the Land Destroyer blog and others; Higgins was initially pushed into the limelight by the Guardians’ former Middle East editor Brian Whitaker, a ‘journalist’ with the honour of being a lead proponent of almost every smear campaign and piece of western propaganda directed at the Syrian government, while wholeheartedly promoting the Bin Ladenite ‘rebels’ as secular feminist freedom fighters and repeatedly spouting the liberal opportunist mantra of western military ‘action’, which realistically means Imperialist military intervention. Whitaker and Higgins played a lead role in bolstering corporate media’s fantasy narratives throughout the joint NATO-Al Qaeda insurgency in Libya during 2011, with many of the anti-Gaddafi claims they propagated subsequently proven to be speculative at best, outright propaganda at worst […]

    “The working relationship between Higgins and the corporate media became almost uniform during the course of the Syrian conflict; an unsubstantiated anti-Assad, or pro-rebel narrative would predictably form in the corporate media (cluster bombs, chemical weapons, unsolved massacres,) at which point Higgins would jump to the fore with his YouTube analysis in order to bolster mainstream discourse whilst offering the air of impartiality and the crucial ‘open source’ faux-legitimacy. It has become blatantly evident that the ‘rebels’ in both Syria and Libya have made a concerted effort in fabricating YouTube videos in order to incriminate and demonize their opponents while glorifying themselves in a sanitized image. Western media invariably lapped-up such fabrications without question and subsequently built narratives around them – regardless of contradictory evidence or opinion. Yet such media, and more importantly, the specific actors propagating it fraudulently to bolster the flimsiest of western narratives has continued unabated – primarily as a result of the aforementioned ‘old media’ organs endlessly promoting it.”

    Brown Moses and “New Media”; Same as the Old Media
    By Phil Greaves
    https://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/brown-moses-new-media-same-as-the-old-media/

  17. Abe
    July 2, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    Human Rights Watch coughs up Bellingcat hairball:

    “Yeah, I mean, um, we’ve used open source material, we’ve checked this with experts, we’re… we’re quite confident”
    – Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xIFceES86I

    At a 1 May 2017 press conference, Roth presented a HRW report, “Death by Chemicals: The Syrian Government’s Widespread and Systematic Use of Chemical Weapons.” The HRW report implies that Syria’s military allies, Russia and Iran, aided or abetted the use of chemical weapons, and explicitly calls on the UN Security Council to adopt sanctions against the Syrian government.

    Roth repeatedly referred to the new HRW report as “our own investigation”.

    However, it is clear from the report that HRW activities were limited to laundering a list of names supplied by “opposition” forces in Al-Qaeda controlled Idlib, and conducting telephone interviews with the “opposition” vetted alleged “witnesses”.

    Following its well-established pattern of “investigation”, HRW performed no independent verification of any of the “opposition” claims presented in its report.

    The HRW report relied most heavily on information supplied by “opposition” forces and laundered by the Atlantic Council’s Bellingcat group. HRW makes no mention of Bellingcat’s close cooperation with the Atlantic Council “regime change” agenda in Syria.

    Bellingcat is repeatedly cited in the HRW report’s footnotes. A photograph in the HRW report refers to “Bellingcat, a group specializing in analyzing information posted online, including videos and photographs” (page 24). HRW makes no mention of the fact that claims by Dan Kaszeta and Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat about previous alleged “chemical attacks” have been repeatedly debunked.

    The HRW report refers to the site of 4 April 2017 chemical incident, a hole in the middle of a paved road in the town of Khan Shaykhun, as “Impact Site 1”

    According to the HRW report, only one alleged “witness” claimed to have seen a bomb drop from an airplane: “One resident said he saw the plane drop a bomb near the town’s central bakery” (page 2)

    The story of this one “witness” appears in the HRW report as follows:

    “Ahmad al-Helou, who was tending the fields that morning, told Human Rights Watch that he looked up when he saw a shadow on the ground and saw a plane fly towards Khan Sheikhoun from the east. Al-Helou said that because of his high vantage point he saw the plane drop a bomb and the bomb falling until it hit the ground. The bomb fell in front of the bakery, he said. Al-Helou said that he did not hear an explosion, but that he saw the bomb kick up yellowish smoke that spread in the prevailing wind.” (page 22)

    Five pages later in the HRW report, this one “witness” adds a few more details to his story:

    “Seeing that the bombs had hit his neighborhood, al-Helou, the witness who saw the bomb land in front of the bakery, at Impact Site 1, went there to see what had happened:

    “‘People had blood and foam coming out of their mouths, and there was a strong smell. The smell was really disgusting, but I am not able to compare it to anything else. We helped one person and then another, but then we passed out as well. I don’t know what happened next. I woke up in the hospital.’” (page 27)

    The HRW report bases much of its claim that a “Syrian warplane dropped a factory-made sarin bomb” (page 21) on the dubious claim of a solitary “witness”.

    The story by “al-Helou” that “a bomb fell” that produced “a strong smell” is not consistent with the nerve agent Sarin. Pure sarin is an odorless liquid. Impure sarin smells like fruit.

    The HRW report advances a further Bellingcat-style claim that an air-dropped Soviet-produced munition was used to deliver Sarin at Khan Shaykhun.

    HRW claims that “photos of the two remnants in the crater at Impact Site 1 appear to be consistent with the characteristics of the KhAB-250” (page 29), and cites an article by Dan Kaszeta of Bellingcat (page 30). The HRW report also relies on “modeling” of the “crater” at “Impact Site 1” produced by Forensic Architecture, a group that collaborated with Bellingcat and Human Rights Watch in previous dramatic and debunked claims about bombing in Aleppo.

    In short, the HRW report relies entirely on sources that are not “independent” by any means. Like previous reports on Syria, Libya, Iraq and other conflict areas, the most recent HRW report is a political document produced to serve “regime change” efforts by Western governments, principally the United States.

    The Human Rights Watch reports on Syria basically is a “Government Assessment” masquerading as an “independent” investigation by a “Human Rights” organization. Human Rights Watch remains conspicuously unconcerned about the suffering of the majority of the Syrian people who live in areas of Syria not controlled by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other armed so-called “opposition” forces.

  18. Abe
    July 2, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    The New York Times routinely hacks up Bellingcat hairballs:

    “Find a computer, get on Google Earth and match what you see in the video to the streets and buildings”
    – Malachy Browne, NYT “Senior Story Producer” at the New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/01/insider/the-times-uses-forensic-mapping-to-verify-a-syrian-chemical-attack.html

    Browne and Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat are founding members of the Google-funded “First Draft” coalition.

    Browne demonstrates how the New York Times and other “First Draft” media “partner” outlets use video, not to report the facts, but to “strengthen” their “storytelling”.

    Before joining the Times, Browne was an editor at “social news and marketing agency” Storyful and at Reported. ly, the “social reporting” arm of Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media.

    In 2016, the NYT video department hired Browne and Andrew Glazer, a senior producer on the team that launched VICE News, to help “enhance” the “reporting” at the Times.

    Browne represents the Times’ effort to package its dubious “reporting” using the Storyful marketing strategy of “building trust, loyalty, and revenue with insight and emotionally driven content” wedded with Bellingcat style “digital forensics” scams.

    Unsurprisingly, Browne generously “supplemented” his “reporting” with “videos gathered by the journalist Eliot Higgins and the social media news agency Storyful”.

    Bellingcat is directly allied with the New York Times and the Washington Post, the two principal mainstream media organs for “regime change” propaganda in the United States, via the Google-founded “First Draft” network.

    Google is an enthusiastic supporter of Higgins despite Bellingcat’s track record of debunked claims about Syria and Russia. Google formed the “First Draft” coalition in 2015 with Bellingcat as a founding member.

    In a triumph of Orwellian Newspeak, this Google’s new “post-Truth” propaganda coalition declares that member organizations will “work together to tackle common issues, including ways to streamline the verification process”.

    Apparently the key method of “verification” is to cite Higgins, his collaborators at Bellingcat, and the Atlantic Council.

    Designated reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, UK Guardian, and other “First Draft” media “partners” write articles based on the “findings” of Higgins & Co.

    Regime change groups like the Atlantic Council, and compromised human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also cite Higgins “findings” as having been “confirmed” by reporters at key “First Draft” coalition media outlets.

    This highly streamlined game of fake journalistic “verification” has intensified in the aftermath of the Khan Shakhun attacks in Syria. It’s one big Propaganda 3.0 circle jerk.

  19. Dunno
    July 2, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    So, Mr. Ritter, please, allow me count the ways. The planning for the anything-but-spontaneous, so-called Arab Spring was initially concocted in the Rothschild’s Londonistan and in Neocon-controlled Washington, DeCeit during “Dopey” Bush’s disastrous and destructive regime. This remove-the-Arab-strongmen operation (aka Arab Spring) was under the control of the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy (“uncle” NED): “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” was the claim made in 1993 to the Washington Post by Allen Weinstein, who was a co-founder of the National Endowment for Democracy. Its current and only president (since 1984) is Carl Gershman, who once worked in the research department of B’nai B’rith, which spawned the criminal organization, known as the ADL which has illegally spied on and continues to spy on tens of thousands of Americans. Gershman also served on the Governing Council of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

    Harry Truman caved in to the pressure that was put on him by the Zionists for the creation of Israel, because he needed Jewish money and support in order to win the election in 1948. “Harry the Hat” Truman was the creature of the ultra-corrupt,Tom Prendergast political machine of Kansas City, MO. Truman reportedly acted as a bagman-collector for this shakedown gang of criminals. According to a reliable eyewitness (the grandmother of author and journalist Roger Morris). Truman is also reputed to have taken a very large illegal cash bribe from Jewish donors when his campaign ran out of cash — Bobby Kennedy used to joked about this.. The former haberdashery salesman went against the advice and protests of his entire cabinet when he recognized the Jewish state of Israel (q.v., “The Money and the Power”; Roger Morris & Sally Denton).

    USAID, which was originally created in order to act as a front and a cover for the CIA, funds the white helmets organization in Syria. There’s a huge surprise! In order to have any grounding in what is currently happening in the Middle East one needs to read the “The Zionist Plan for the Middle East,” which was Translated and edited by the late Israel Shahak. For a more contemporary version of this plan one should take a good look at the book, “Israel and the Clash of Civilizations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East.” This important book is written by former journalist, Jonathan Cook. I also encourage everyone to read and study the book: “Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S, Was Used to Create Israel”; it was written by independent journalist, Alison Weir.

    It is extremely important to keep in mind the over-arching strategy that the Zionists are following (under the guise of democracy), when one is analyzing the tactics such as false flag gas attacks and false atrocities. The Zionists, their neocon supporters, the government and non-government agencies that they are employing must all be held under a microscope. Only then will the Zionists true motive be recognized — total domination of the Middle East and its resources. As Benjamin Netanyahu was overheard to say by a CIA spook in 2002, after Bibi had just finished visiting poor Jonathan Pollard in prison, “Once we squeeze all we can out of the United States, it can dry up and blow away.” I guess that the Israelis won’t be needing our aid once they come to dominate the Middle East. Hey, “next Year in Jerusalem,” huh, Beebsy: That sounds like a plan!

    After all, The Rothschild’s did not just help to create Israel because they were observant Jews, they saw and still see a buck in the gas and oil mega-deposits that the region holds (Can you say Royal Dutch Shell on a Bilderberger, with all of the condiments, please?. This is why I prefer to refer to Israel under its true name — Rothschildlandia. That murderous family and an elite cadre of other super-rich criminal family dynasties are calling all of the shots in the Middle East. The pathetic middle managers who head the governments of the world are simply this crowds acquiescent little lap-a doodle lap poodles.

  20. Cassandra
    July 2, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    Of course there is middle ground.

    The third alternative is that the Syrian air force conducted a conventional bombing of a location where chemicals were being stored and caused leaks.

    • backwardsevolution
      July 3, 2017 at 1:06 am

      Cassandra – yes, I think that’s what probably happened, they hit a location where chemicals (such as fertilizer or chlorine) were being stored. Apparently there was a cloud of gas, but sarin does not produce a cloud. Another White Helmet fellow said he could smell the gas, but sarin is odorless. It might have been chlorine. Paul Craig Roberts said:

      “In the story given to Hersh, these officials are emphatic that not only were chemical weapons removed from Syria, but also that Assad would not use them or be permitted by the Russians to use them even if he had them. Moreover, Hersh reports that he was told that Russia fully informed the US of the Syrian attack on ISIS in advance. The weapon was a guided bomb that Russia had supplied to Syria. Therefore, it could not have been a chemical weapon.”

      The Russians wanted inspectors to get in there right away, but the U.S. said no. Why? I read somewhere that these chemicals are easily gotten after the fact off of painted surfaces. Careful testing should be able to pinpoint exactly what the substance was.

  21. tina
    July 3, 2017 at 12:24 am

    Hey, how about a shout out to Hans Blix? Remember that guy back in 2002? He said there are no nukes. Yeah, we just love our hegemony, might makes right, we are great again. Fourth of Jee-fucking-Lie, God damned right I, believe In the Trump Family. I got my reservation at Mar-a-Lago. Fuck everyone else , I got mine, and if you did not , you are a LOSER. Happy 4th , Everyone

  22. mrtmbrnmn
    July 3, 2017 at 12:38 am

    Breaking News!! Breaking News!! Poland Invades Germany!! Starts World War 2!!

    Was it Yogi Berra who said: History is deja vu all over again. And again. And again.

    Rogue Nation USA keeps detonating its own Goebbels Big Lie bomb ‘cuz it works… Gulf of Tonkin, WMDs, Putin invaded Crimea, sarin gas is coming to a Syrian village near you…etc etc…Iran. I am pretty sure when we bring about the end of the world, we will blame it on the other guy…

  23. backwardsevolution
    July 3, 2017 at 1:17 am

    Paul Craig Roberts:

    “How do we know that what Hersh was told was true? What if Trump was encouraged to order the Tomahawk strike as a way of interjecting the US directly into the conflict? Both the US and Israel have powerful reasons for wanting to overthrow Assad. However, ISIS, sent to do the job, has been defeated by Russia and Syria. Unless Washington can somehow get directly involved, the war is over.

    The story Hersh was given also serves to damn Trump while absolving the intelligence services. Trump takes the hit for injecting the US directly into the conflict.

    Hersh’s story reads well, but it easily could be a false story planted on him. I am not saying that the story is false, but unless we learn more, it could be. […]

    A reasonable conclusion is that Washington’s plan to use ISIS to overthrow Syria and then start on Iran was derailed by Russian and Syrian military success against ISIS. The US then tried to partition Syria by occupying part of it, but were out-manuevered by the Russians and Syrians. This left direct US involvement as the only alternative to defeat. This direct US military involvement began with the US attack on the Syrian military base and was followed by shooting down a Syrian war plane.

    The next stage will be a US-staged false flag chemical attack or alleged chemical attack, and this false flag, as has already been announced, will be the excuse for larger scale US military action against Syria, which, unless the Russians abandon Syria, means conflict with Russia, Iran, and perhaps China.”

    I do NOT think that Trump, all on his own (because he watched some TV), took it upon himself to order the bombing of Syria. I said this the other day. What, we’re supposed to believe that the intelligence community all of a sudden are going all Mother Theresa on us, telling the truth, acting on the up and up? No way. As Roberts says, Hersh’s informants are hanging Trump out to dry here.

      • backwardsevolution
        July 3, 2017 at 1:04 pm

        Gregory Herr – thanks for the link. It was excellent, cuts right to the chase: the “unfit for office” attack.

        “The out of control president went off on a tangent and attacked Syria for no reason in spite of the heroic efforts by the intelligence professionals to provide him with the best intel they could.”

        The saints couldn’t stop this out-of-control President who just acted on his own! Yeah, riiiiiight! Trump really needs to pull an Erdogan and fire the top half of the CIA and the other intelligence agencies. Get rid of these people.

        Seymour Hersh, another in a long line of liars.

      • Abe
        July 3, 2017 at 9:40 pm

        Gregory Herr and backwardsevolution:

        Scott Creighton presents a twisted argument that Hersh is “using his credibility to prop-up official fairy-tales and white-wash CIA-linked terrorism”.

        In his zeal to impugn Hersh, Creighton claims that Hersh’s “new narrative that suggests all the deaths of the civilians were caused by the Syrian military strike”.

        But Hersh’s 26 June 2017 “Trump’s Red Line” article did nothing of the sort.

        Creighton seems rather confused.

        To be sure, Hersh’s article in Die Welt made no mention of terrorist activity prior to the Khan Shaykhun incident, including Al Qaeda access to Sarin (demonstrated during the deadly Ghouta incident in 2013).

        But Creighton overstates his case by falsely claiming that Hersh is some sort of “Mockingbird specialist”.

        In fact, Creighton’s description of “a history of using his credibility to prop-up official fairy-tales and white-wash CIA-linked terrorism” most accurately fits Eliot Higgins of Brown Moses blog and Bellingcat fame.

        Apparently Creighton is unable to distinguish between the likes of Higgins and Hersh.

        We are not so unfortunate.

  24. koning279
    July 3, 2017 at 2:09 am

    Prof Postol’s findings and report the day after the attack should have been sufficient to make one doubt about a real chemical attack. The motivation to kill civilians in this way has no meaning other than assuming Assad is suicidal enough to do such a thing and well at the time of yet another important meeting in Brussels about Syria.
    The attack in 2013 was enough to know that the terrorists are quite capable of such an attack and nobody was interested to find out what happened to all the children that were kidnapped and used for TV images.

  25. SteveK9
    July 3, 2017 at 8:33 am

    The original title of the article was, ‘Ex-Weapons Inspector: Trump’s Sarin Claims Built on ‘Lie’ ‘, which is more direct.

  26. July 3, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Great article for those interested in facts and detailed analysis rather than self serving innuendo disguised as intelligence. Not so great for those clamoring “fool us again, please, please!!!!

  27. July 3, 2017 at 10:58 am

    And thank you, Gregory, for that WordPress article by Scott Creighton about Seymour Hersh’s reporting, everyone should read it.

    • backwardsevolution
      July 3, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Jessica K – I agree. It IS a “must read”.

    • Abe
      July 3, 2017 at 8:05 pm

      The 28 June 2017 blog post by self-appointed “American Everyman” Michael Creighton attempts to functionally undermine the primary point in Hersh’s 26 June 2017 “Trump’s Red Line” article in Die Welt.

      Hersh’s main point is that “much of the classified information in the community made the point that Syria had not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack”.

      Hersh correctly recognizes a distinction between the activities of the larger US intelligence community and the decisions made by its politically appointed leadership.

      And Hersh has been entirely correct about the fact that there is no evidence of Sarin gas use by the Syrian government at Khan Shaykhun in 2017 or Ghouta in 2013.

      On 27 June 2017, purported “grass-roots independent journalist” Creighton dismissed Hersh’s Die Welt article with a telling remark:

      “what does the new story seem too say? It says the intel community told Trump Assad didn’t use chemical weapons and he attacked the airfield anyway. I sincerely doubt that. More likely, the chemical weapons fabrication was crafted by the intel community and they MISINFORMED Trump so that the attack would take place and now, in retrospect, in another attempt to undermine his presidency, they have fed this story to Seymour and he published it, saying it wasn’t the intel community’s fault, after all, they told Trump the truth.”

      https://willyloman.wordpress.com/2017/06/27/donalds-red-line-same-as-obamas-war-monger-trump-hints-at-new-chemical-weapons-false-flag-in-syria/

      Creighton advances the dubious conspiracy theory that the “Deep State” is “at war” with the poor “misinformed” Donald Trump.

      However one views specific claims made by Hersh’s sources, one fundamental point is clear:

      The 4 April 2017 incident Khan Shaykhun was a false flag event.

      • Gregory Herr
        July 3, 2017 at 10:09 pm

        Absolutely it was a false flag event. Creoghton supports that position:

        “Also not mentioned by Seymour in his stellar new article is the FACT that not ONE civilian casualty is pictured in or around the area the Syrian military actually hit with their airstrike. That’s a FACT. All of the victim’s bodies were filmed outside a compound occupied by our terrorist contractors. Thats a fact not mentioned by Seymour. How did they get there?
        Well they got there because they were in the compound and they were killed BY OUR TERRORIST CONTRACTORS for use in the propaganda footage the White Helmets produced after the strike.”

        In the passage from Creighton you quote, he is simply saying that the CIA told Trump there was no evidence for the supposed sarin attack (the truth), and Trump went ahead with the missile strike anyway. Creighton is suggesting that the CIA actually helped set up the false flag and is using Hersh to whitewash their involvement.
        I just think it’s an interesting article, and it does support the reality that Khan Shaykun was a false flag. I really have no idea whether Hersh is being used or not; and if he is, I don’t have an opinion about whether he is knowingly and willingly being used. But it is plausible that the CIA is involved with what the White Helmets are doing.

        • Gregory Herr
          July 3, 2017 at 10:37 pm

          I guess I can see how the notion of setting up Trump might be fanciful. And the CIA doesn’t need to whitewash anything about their involvement with terrorism….they just deny, deny, deny…but if the setting up of Trump were true, the whitewashing is secondary, it’s just a function.

          • backwardsevolution
            July 3, 2017 at 10:59 pm

            Gregory Herr – there is no doubt in my mind that they are setting Trump up in this Hersh article (maybe without Hersh knowing he’s being used). It’s not that I think Trump is a stellar person or someone who wouldn’t act impulsively. It’s just that they’ve broken this man over the last year, gotten him to the point where he doesn’t dare step out of line; in fact, if anything, he goes the other way, their way. He’s like a well-trained seal.

            So it doesn’t add up that he would all of a sudden step out of line now, go against the people advising him. No way

          • Gregory Herr
            July 3, 2017 at 11:31 pm

            I see your reply now B.E. after I was going over some things and typing mine. No, it doesn’t add up, does it?

          • Abe
            July 4, 2017 at 12:03 am

            Gregory Herr:

            “I really have no idea whether Hersh is being used or not; and if he is, I don’t have an opinion about whether he is knowingly and willingly being used.”

            Well, this guy seems to have an idea:
            https://twitter.com/EliotHiggins/status/880811223620751361

            In fact, this guy’s whole job is to make sure you don’t have an opinion about whether Al Qaeda is knowingly and willingly being used by the CIA. Not to mention Nazi militias in Ukraine. Hint: It’s all the fault of Russians.

          • Gregory Herr
            July 4, 2017 at 12:21 am

            Abe,
            Yes, Al Qeeda and the CIA are familiar. I don’t have an opinion about Hersh as a dupe. I’m not a fan of Higgins or the Atlantic Council…I told Higgins on this site to “go count his blood money.”
            I don’t entertain notions about the Russians being bad guys, and understand the coup that took place in Ukraine. Who are you confusing me with and why did you jump from Hersh to Al Qaeda?

          • Abe
            July 4, 2017 at 1:18 am

            Gregory Herr:

            With all due respect, I don’t imagine you’d regard the statement “I don’t have an opinion about Gregory Herr as a dupe” as a compliment.

            My point is that the “Hersh got played… or worse” meme is being peddled by Higgins and his “First Draft” comrades.

            This isn’t about defending Hersh’s honor.

            For better or worse, Hersh is a high profile media representative for the fact that there is no evidence of Sarin gas use by the Syrian government at Khan Shaykhun in 2017 or Ghouta in 2013.

            Higgins, Kaszeta, and their fellow “First Draft” coalition propagandists are attacking that fact by attacking Hersh.

            Of course, the CIA knows that their remaining precious “moderate opposition” forces in Syria today are Al Qaeda. Yesterday’s “moderate opposition” forces took their weapons and joined ISIS. That’s why the U.S. led coalition was so “ineffective” in its much ballyhooed bombing campaign. The Russians made quick work of that farce.

            Now the U.S. is frog marching its proxies to Raqqa while bombing the Syrian Arab Army on sight. Al Qaeda is holding ground with chemical weapons supplied by its “allies”.

            There are many people in the military and intelligence community who find that rather offensive, to say the least.

            Creighton is no fan of Hersh. Alrighty then. Moving on.

        • Gregory Herr
          July 3, 2017 at 11:26 pm

          What I find curious about the Hersh article is this: If Trump’s military advisors and intelligence officials all were saying that the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun were due to a facility with stored chemicals being struck, secondary explosions and all that, why was the media allowed to run with a deliberate sarin attack story for three days prior to Trump’s missile launch? Why was Haley allowed to run with it at the U,N.?
          Why is the “Assad gassing his own people” still being used in July as a rationale for American involvement?
          So they are telling Hersh this now? What did they actually tell the President at the time? This just makes no sense.

          • Abe
            July 4, 2017 at 12:13 am

            “…that propaganda is good that has the desired results, and that propaganda is bad that does not lead to the desired results. It does not matter how clever it is, for the task of propaganda is not to be clever, its task is to lead to success.”

            – Joseph Goebbels, “Knowledge and Propaganda” speech in 1928 to an audience of Nazi party members in Berlin.

            Required reading for understanding how political propaganda functions in today’s military-industrial-media-sureveillance complex:

            Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda
            By Leonard W. Doob
            https://istifhane.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/goebbels.pdf

            Doob, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University, was a pioneering figure in the fields of cognitive and social psychology, propaganda and communication studies.

        • Gregory Herr
          July 4, 2017 at 12:06 am

          correction: “In the passage from Creighton you quote, he is simply saying that the CIA SAID THEY told Trump there was no evidence… that the CIA actually helped set up the false flag, MISINFORMED TRUMP, and is (now) using Hersh…”

          • Abe
            July 4, 2017 at 12:25 am

            Gregory Herr:

            The problem here is letting Creighton do your reading and thinking for you.

            Read what Hersh wrote in Die Welt
            https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article165905578/Trump-s-Red-Line.html

            Quote the passage(s) in Hersh’s article that you believe support such claims, so there can be a substantive discussion about the matter.

            Otherwise we’re just rummaging around in Creighton’s rabbit hole.

          • Gregory Herr
            July 4, 2017 at 1:00 am

            I don’t know what to tell you Abe. You are a man that I have assumed to be my elder and a person I respect…I have admired your research and have enjoyed the humor you occasionally spice these threads up with. I can’t date it, but I distinctly remember the first time I stumbled upon Consortium News, I noticed your commentary…it concerned Ukraine and you recommended a book by Natylie Baldwin (Ukraine: Zbig’s Grand Chessboard). I had just that day been looking at reviews for it on Amazon and had been considering it. Well, I took note of you, got the book (thanks), and always searched out your comments as I started coming back more and more to CN until I became “hooked”, so to speak, and made it part of my reading routine. So I’ve always kinda credited you with helping draw me here.
            At any rate, I’ll be the first to say I’m not in the same league as many here…I’m far from the brightest bulb and am not insusceptible to foolishness or being misled. But I assure you that I am capable of some independent thought and did not mean, by citing Creighton’s article, to suggest that it was Scripture. If my comments are inadequate or disagreeable, so be it. I’ll just have to let them stand as they are right now and come back to live another day.

          • Abe
            July 4, 2017 at 2:07 am

            Gregory Herr, backwardsevolution, and Jessica K, thank you for all your comments and contributions. I very much respect your views in this post and elsewhere. The community here at Consortium News engages in well-reasoned discussion and intelligent debate.

            I have criticized Creighton’s polemic because it fundamentally mis-represents Hersh’s journalism on the Sarin issue.

            Creighton comments on variety of issues on his blog, but I do think his arguments about Hersh get twisted. That’s why I’ve been pushing back a bit in my comments.

      • Abe
        July 3, 2017 at 11:34 pm

        Gregory Herr and backwardsevolution:

        Creighton tends to be extravagant in his claims about Hersh.

        Let’s be more careful in our statements here.

        Hersh’s sources unequivocally support the position that Sarin was not used by the Syrian Air Force in the 4 April 2017 bombing of Khan Shaykhun.

        Indeed that is the main point emphasized by Hersh in “Trump’s Red Line”.

        That means that any Sarin identified in autopsied bodies and biological-environmental substances from Khan Shaykhun came from the Al Qaeda terrorist forces or one of their “allies”.

        Hersh chooses to not say that, but that is the unavoidable object of the article in Die Welt.

        Hersh definitely is not a “Sarin denialist”.

        Hersh is simply stating the fact that there is no evidence that Sarin was used by the government of Syria.

        That leaves “our terrorist contractors” as Creighton accurately describes them, and it implicates the supporters of Al Qaeda.

        The question of what the President knew and when he knew it is secondary to the question of what actually happened at Khan Shaykhun that day.

        First we have to dispense with the fictions propagated by Eliot Higgins and Dan Kaszeta at Bellingcat.

        OK, Creighton obviously like to capitalize words. That’s his prerogative on his own blog, but it appears to be shouting anywhere else. And his penchant for ad hominem makes Creighton sound a lot like Higgins and Kaszeta.

        Creighton is furious that there are facts not mentioned by Hersh.

        But there are a heck of a lot more facts assiduously avoided by Higgins and Kaszeta.

        There is absolutely no equivalence between Hersh and fake “citizen investigative journalist” Higgins.

        Hersh acknowledges the fact when he relies upon anonymous sources within the U.S. military and intelligence establishments, and he questions those sources.

        Higgins and Kaszeta conceal the fact when they rely on Al Qaeda, its accomplices, and the U.S. military and intelligence establishments, and they pretend that those sources’ claims are “verified”.

        We all know which approach the mainstream media and U.S. government have deemed “credible”.

        • backwardsevolution
          July 4, 2017 at 12:38 pm

          Abe – doesn’t Hersh leave things hanging? Too often I’ve read articles by people I’m supposed to respect, who appear to consistently question things, who appear to be “good guys”, only to find that after reading them for awhile I’m left with an “unfinished” feeling, as if they left out a key chunk of information. Why?

          Does Hersh actually – for one split second – think that it’s possible Trump just up and acted on his own? I don’t think he thinks that. So why doesn’t he spell that out? Even if he hated Trump (which I’m quite sure he does), doesn’t he owe it to the truth to at least state that for Trump to have acted, he most definitely had to have had a push, and a pretty big push at that? And not just by one person, but by many?

          Look at when Trump was interviewed about Putin and Russia. Trump turned around and said something like, “What, do you think we’re so innocent?” Trump is not stupid, he knows we are not always told the truth. So for Trump to act, something else went on in that room besides just, “Mr. President, we don’t have any evidence.”

          Hersh might have said that perhaps the smear and propaganda campaign against Trump has worked very well, that this is what made Trump act, as he wanted to look like he was protecting America and going against Putin. “Look, everybody, I AM patriotic!”

          But don’t just leave people hanging with the idea that a beaten-up, vilified and pummeled President just acted on his own, like a rogue. Hersh KNOWS (yes, I use capitals too) that Trump would not have acted on his own.

        • Abe
          July 4, 2017 at 2:01 pm

          Hersh’s “Trump’s Red Line” article in Die Welt highlights the fact that the intelligence community knew that Sarin was not used by the Syrian Air Force in the 4 April 2017 bombing of Khan Shaykhun.

          Is there more to the story? Sure.

        • Gregory Herr
          July 4, 2017 at 3:05 pm

          I have been in a sloppy habit of bookmarking websites/articles that might have something of value and then not getting back to them in a timely fashion. So I had accumulated too many and was doing some clearing when I came across the Creighton piece. I did find it interesting, noticed it was relevant to the PCR piece B.E. was discussing, and so posted it. It’s foremost value to me was in its corroboration that the “story” of the Assad sarin attack was untrue, and that terrorists and their White Helmet partners perpetrated a fraud. The speculation about Hersh being “controlled opposition” I do find interesting, but am not compelled to pass judgement on one way or another right now.
          I should have read Hersh’s article right after coming across Creighton’s, but I didn’t…got involved in other things.
          Your first response Abe was keen to emphasize the fundamental point of Hersh’s sources, that Khan Shaykhun was a false flag. So at 10:09 I simply wanted to support Creighton’s agreement with that and bungled my expression of what I think is the meaning of the Creighton passage quoted.
          (I made a “correction” of this bungling at 12:06 which was unfortunately posted well down the page and may have hurt the effort to make sense..I used CAPS in my correction simply to clarify where the correction was being made…other caps in the posts I made here are a function of pasting Creighton’s text…I don’t personally find it generally becoming or necessary)

          So anyway, after trying to make the point about Creighton unmasking the false nature of what our press is saying, your response of 8:05 still left me guessing (10:37) precisely how dubious Creighton’s secondary speculations were. At this point I read the Hersh article and it opened up a whole ‘nother can of worms. Hence my 11:26 post and 11:31 reply to B.E. Then I was thrown by your 12:03 response…by my own fault didn’t understand where you were going with it as you can tell by my 12:21 reaction. I am grateful for your 1:18 post that greatly clarified things, and your kind words at 2:07 mean a lot to me.

          I don’t know how I missed this 11:34pm post until this morning, but I did. I certainly agree that the question of what happened at Khan Shaykhun is of utmost importance. And there obviously is no equivalence between Hersh and Higgins. I hope it is the case that many people in the military and intelligence community are offended by what is going on…this is somewhat indicated by the sources of Hersh’s article:

          “To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team, Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and intelligence officials…
          Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria, removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian chemical weapons depots…
          The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead. And yet it was impossible for the experts to persuade the president of this once he had made up his mind. ..
          …in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: ‘Do it.”’

          So if all this is true, as stated in “Trump’s Red Line”‘, then serious problems exist between what Trump’s intelligence and military advisors are telling him and what is being fed to the public. The irresponsibility of the intelligence services and military going forth with highly risky maneuvers while the public is fed blatantly false information and then leaking later to a reporter that it was all a Trump show is pretty disturbing. It is imperative to get to the truth of what Trump knew and when, whether he was railroaded, continues to be railroaded, or pulled some shit on his own.

          • Abe
            July 4, 2017 at 8:25 pm

            There can be a very great difference between the information gathered by the intelligence and military services and the information communicated by senior intelligence and military advisors. Information filters up the chain of command before reaching the White House and being fed to the public. Obviously it is not uncommon for blatantly false information to both enter and exit the White House. A frightening reality given today’s advanced weaponry.

          • Gregory Herr
            July 4, 2017 at 9:41 pm

            As always, you have given me something more to think about..I am here to learn and look up to what you say with a respectful regard.
            Frightening reality to be sure…

  28. Abe
    July 3, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Regime change propagandists hurl the label “Sarin denialists” at investigative journalists who acknowledge the fact that there is no evidence that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government in the Khan Shaykhun incident.

    The Google-sponsored “First Draft” coalition of regime change propaganda “partners” like the UK Guardian is populated by “journalists” and “commentators” paid to deny obvious facts:

    – “testimony” from Al Qaeda controlled Idlib is contradictory and evidently false in many cases

    – the alleged “impact site”, a hole in the middle of the road, was not produced by an object dropped from the air

    – alleged “eyewitnesses” described noxious odors but pure sarin nerve agent is odorless, and impure sarin smells like fruit

    UK Guardian commentator and “liberal” activist George Monbiot is an example of the way Atlantic Council “regime change” propaganda gets propagated by “useful idiots” on the left.

    On 13 April 2017, Monbiot Tweeted: “Do those who still insist Syrian govt didn’t drop chemical weapons have any idea how much evidence they are denying?”

    Monbiot’s Tweet linked to an Atlantic Council article dramatically titled “Khan Sheikhoun: The Fingerprints of a Chemical Attack”. Authored by Eliot Higgins, founder of Bellingcat and a fellow of the Atlantic Council’s “Digital Forensic Research Lab”, the article was the typical Bellingcat mashup of Al Qaeda supplied photos and videos.

    When he’s not busy Tweeting Bellingcat and Atlantic Council propaganda, Monbiot dashes off blog notes.

    In a 27 April 2017 blog entry titled “Disavowal”, Monbiot insisted that “survivors of the chemical weapons attack are among the key witnesses to the fact that the weapons were delivered by air”,

    Monbiot supplied a link to precious “testimony” from a 6 April 2017 article by Kareem Shaheen for the UK Guardian. Purportedly the first western media to reach the site of the alleged air attack, the Guardian displayed a photograph of a hole in the middle of the road that it claimed was produced by “a rocket laced with a nerve agent”.

    Never mind that Higgins and fake “chemical weapons expert” Dan Kaszeta at Bellingcat insist that the hole was produced by an “air dropped Sarin bomb”.

    The Guardian article also presented the dramatic claim by a “volunteer” that “We could smell it from 500 metres away”.

    Yes indeed, like Higgins and Kaszeta, Monbiot has a penchant for very active forms of denial.

    Monbiot generously linked to an homage to Higgins and Kaszeta written by Louis Proyect, a self-professed “Unrepentant Marxist” blogger. Proyect seems positively obsessed with defending Higgins and Kaszeta’s long ago debunked claims about chemical weapons in Syria.

    Troubling himself further with an Update, Monbiot generously linked to a “thorough and – to my eyes – convincing debunking of Postol’s hypothesis” written by Clay Claiborne, a self-professed “Revoltuinary [sic] Marxist” blogger. Claiborne spews even more recycled propaganda from Higgins and Kaszeta.

    Monbiot’s “liberal” bloviations demonstrate how easily certain sectors of the political left can be recruited to help the Atlantic Council market “humanitarian” war propaganda.

    Monbiot is back Tweeting
    https://twitter.com/GeorgeMonbiot/status/881891668940771328

  29. Daniel
    July 3, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Lookee here. Western “journalists” are finally reporting from Syria! Y’all may know that Western Journos haven’t spent much time in Syria since that rash of kidnappings and beheadings made reporting on our “moderate rebels” a bit too challenging for the MSM. And though they’ve always been able to report from government-held territory, apparently that’s a viewpoint we didn’t need to be exposed to.

    So it actually is news that the NY Times and The Guardian sent a couple of “embedded journalists” on a US military guided tour of illegally-occupied Taqba, Syria.

    A great examination of their “reporting:”

    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/07/nyt-wapo-reporters-stenograph-five-oclock-follies.html#comments

    And the NY Times’ “Journalist” is Michael Gordon. Some may remember him as the co-writer, along with Judith Miller of some of the finest Iraq War II-promoting propaganda. Poor Judith, of course was offered up as the sacrificial lamb for not being sufficiently…. uh…. journalistic?

    But Mikey was slipped under the radar, so here he is back in his role as salesman for war.

    And just as a reminder, here’s one of Mikey and Judi’s war propaganda pieces from the rollout of the “product marketing” in Fall, 2002. Bonus points for catching each example of proven falsehoods stated by these “journalists” as unquestioned “facts.”

    http://www.realdemocracy.com/abomb.htm

  30. Abe
    July 4, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat is running away from hard truths:

    https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2017/07/04/opcw-just-trashed-seymour-hershs-khan-sheikhoun-conspiracy-theory/

    The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission (FFM) final report on Khan Shaykhun makes it clear:

    – No evidence an air-dropped Sarin bomb
    – No OPCW investigation on the ground
    – No OPCW control of chain of custody (CoC) for the autopsied bodies and biological-environmental substances collected
    – All samples were collected by Al Qaeda and its allied NGOs
    – No independent eyewitnesses selected by OPCW
    – All alleged eyewitnesses were provided by Al Qaeda and its allied NGOs

    But don’t worry. Higgins is “winning” in a Charlie Sheen way.

    Higgins is busy doing victory laps while all the adoring Bellincat fanboys in the “First Draft” coalition struggle to find ways to amplify their applause.

  31. Abe
    July 5, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    The final report of The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission (FFM) in Syria regarding the alleged incident at Khan Shaykhun in April 2017 is now available.

    The report can be downloaded from the United Nations Documentation System here:

    https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/Fact_Finding_Mission/s-1510-2017_e_.pdf

    The OPCW-FFN final report states:

    “Based on its work, the FFM is able to conclude that a large number of people, some of whom died, were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance. The release that caused this exposure was most likely initiated at the site where there is now a crater in the road. It is the conclusion of the FFM that such a release can only be determined as the use of sarin, as a chemical weapon.” [page 1]

    The final report makes it clear that the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic does not question the fact that sarin or a sarin-like substance was used in the area of the incident:

    “As regards the question of an on-site visit by the FFM to the scene of the incident, it is an area located outside the effective control of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. It is to be noted that the use of sarin or a sarin-like substance is not questioned. This is also evident from the position of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic which provided to the FFM its own information and materials as evidence.” [page 1]

    The final report also makes it clear that the OPCW-FFM did not visit the site:

    “Since the mandate of the FFM is confined to establishing only the fact of the use of chemical weapons, the security risks associated with a deployment to Khan Shaykhun far outweighed any additional corroboration of the facts that have already been established. The Director-General has therefore decided that the FFM will not undertake an on-site visit to Khan Shaykhun.” [page 1]

    The final report states clearly that the OPCW-FFM team was unable to implement a complete chain of custody (CoC) over environmental samples:

    “the team was constrained due to the inability to access the site of the alleged incident and the amount of time that had passed between the alleged incident and receipt of samples by the team (depending on the source, between 1 week and 2 months after the incident).
    As a result, the team was unable to:
    (a) assess the geography and conditions of the location of the alleged incident;
    (b) directly select sampling points and items;
    (c) conduct on-site collection of samples; and
    (d) implement a complete chain of custody, by the team, for samples from source.”
    [pages 10-11]

    The final report indicates that the OPCW-FFM team attended autopsies “in a neighbouring country” on three alleged victims for collection of biomedical specimens and identification of the cause(s) of death. According to the final report, “analyses of specimens taken at autopsies and demonstrate that biomedical specimens from all three fatalities indicate exposure to sarin or a sarin-like substance” [page 37]

    However, the OPCW-FFM team entirely relied on interviews to determine the alleged victims proximity to the alleged dispersion point.

    The OPCW-FFM relied on hearsay evidence that the alleged victims were exposed to sarin in proximity to the site where there is now a crater in the road.

    The hard truth is that OPCW-FFM identified the site of the alleged victims exposure to sarin, the most significant fact of the incident, based on hearsay evidence provided by Al Qaeda and its allied NGOs.

  32. Abe
    July 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    The 78-page final report Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission (FFM) is available here:

    https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/Fact_Finding_Mission/s-1510-2017_e_.pdf

    The OPCW-FFM final report presents a “narrative” related to the incident at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017 that was “derived solely from interviews and, where possible, is corroborated with different interviewees” [page 19]

    The OPCW-FFM final report concludes that while “some witnesses advised” that a munition was dropped from an aircraft, the means of dispersal of sarin could not be established by the FFM team:

    “Although, some witnesses advised that the release was due to a munition dropped from an aircraft, the FFM was unable to retrieve any items from the site which would indicate the means of dispersal of a chemical. After analysing photographs and video supplied by witnesses, the FFM could not establish with a great degree of confidence the means of deployment and dispersal of the chemical.” [page 52]

    Nevertheless, following the “narrative” of “a munition dropped from an aircraft”, the OPCW-FFM final report uses the phrase “alleged impact site” [page 6], “suspected impact point” [page 16], and “impact point of the alleged chemical munition” [page 21].

    The OPCW-FFM final report notes: “The FFM was unable to retrieve any parts that might relate to dispersion of a chemical. However, the FFM was informed that remnants of a munition from the impact crater (point 1 in Figure 5) have been secured and could be made available in the future.” [page 48]

    However, the final report presents no explanation why the alleged “remnants” – the most relevant physical evidence corroborating the “narrative” were not immediately provided to the OPCW-FFM team.

    The OPCW-FFM final report further concludes: “Witness testimony related to the site and ensuing events coupled to the analysis of environmental samples from the crater lends credibility to the hypothesis that the sarin release was initiated in the area of the impact point.”

    Not only did the OPCW-FFM final report advance the “hypothesis” of sarin release from an air dropped munition impact site, it failed to mention documented witness testimony from Khan Shaykhun that contradicted this “narrative”.

  33. Abe
    July 5, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    “Exploiting their access to the western media, the White Helmets have de facto become a major source of ‘eyewitness’ news regarding what has been going on in those many parts of Syria where European and American journalists are quite rightly afraid to go. It is all part of a broader largely successful ‘rebel’ effort to manufacture fake news that depicts the Damascus government as engaging in war crimes directed against civilians.

    “The White Helmets have certainly saved some lives under dangerous circumstances but they have also exaggerated their humanitarian role as they travel to bombing sites with their film crews trailing behind them. Once at the sites, with no independent observers, they are able to arrange or even stage what is filmed to conform to their selected narrative. They have consistently promoted tales of government atrocities against civilians to encourage outside military intervention in Syria and bring about regime change in Damascus. The White Helmets were, for example, the propagators of the totally false but propagandistically effective claims regarding the government use of so-called ‘barrel bombs’ against civilians.

    “The White Helmets were a largely foreign creation that came into prominence in the aftermath of the unrest in Syria that developed as a result of the Arab Spring in 2012. They are currently largely funded by a number of non-government organizations (NGOs) as well as governments, including Britain and some European Union member states. The United States has directly provided $23 million through the USAID (US Agency for International Development) as of 2016 and almost certainly considerably more indirectly. […]

    “But perhaps the most serious charge against the White Helmets consists of the evidence that they actively participated in the atrocities, to include torture and murder, carried out by their al-Nusra hosts. There have been numerous photos of the White Helmets operating directly with armed terrorists and also celebrating over the bodies of execution victims and murdered Iraqi soldiers. The group has an excellent working relationship with a number of jihadi affiliates and is regarded by them as fellow ‘mujahideen’ and ‘soldiers of the revolution.'”

    The Fraud of the White Helmets
    By Philip Giraldi
    https://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/the-fraud-of-the-white-helmets/

  34. Abe
    July 5, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    “Those who support, either explicitly or implicitly, the meddling in Syria’s affairs by hostile foreign powers are, of course, delighted that Hersh’s revelations are being kept out of the spotlight. They don’t want every side heard, only their side. And those of us who expect all the evidence to be aired, so we aren’t corralled into yet another disastrous ‘intervention’ in the Middle East, are being mischievously denounced as Assad loyalists.

    “A good example of this kind of wilful misrepresentation is by Brian Whitaker, the Guardian’s former Middle East editor. In a recent blog post, he has accused me and Media Lens, among others, of being ‘loyal supporters of Hersh’ – and by insinuation, of Syrian leader Bashar Assad – of being ‘sarin denialists’, and of demonstrating blatant hypocrisy in approving Hersh’s use of anonymous sources when we oppose reliance on such sources by other journalists. […]

    “the issue of using anonymous sources does not need to be judged according to our own standards, but rather those of the corporate media. Mainstream editors have repeatedly proved they have absolutely no problem using anonymous sources when they support the official narrative, one that promotes war. Liberal papers like the New York Times are filled most days with stories from unnamed officials, telling us what we are supposed to believe. The fake ‘revelations’ of Saddam’s WMD were largely sourced over many months from anonymous officials. Whitaker himself worked as an editor at the Guardian when it was running similarly unverifiable stories from anonymous sources.

    “So our complaints about Hersh’s treatment are based, in part, on the glaring hypocrisy of journalists like Whitaker. Why are anonymous sources fine when they confirm the narrative of the security state, but problematic – ‘flaky’ – when they challenge it? Whitaker doesn’t have a problem with Hersh using anonymous sources, any more than does the Guardian, New York Times, New Yorker, or London Review of Books. They have a problem with Hersh using anonymous sources when those sources say things that are not supposed to be said. […]

    “Whistleblowers and those who challenge the powerful often need protection in the form of anonymity from the likely retaliation of state actors. Anonymity is never ideal, but sometimes it is necessary. And when necessary, as in the case of whistleblowers, safeguards should be put in place. They appear to have been in the case of the Hersh investigation. Fact-checkers like Scott Ritter were used to ensure the story was technically plausible, and Welt editors say they were given the identities of Hersh’s sources. The intelligence officials who spoke to Hersh may be unknown to the reader, but they are apparently known to the editors overseeing the story’s publication.

    “Contrast that to the anonymous government, military and intelligence officials who regularly brief journalists anonymously, often to spread what turns out to be misinformation. There is no reason why any official needs to be unnamed when they are acting as spokesperson for their government. The only protection such anonymity confers is protection from accountability.”

    The Useful Idiots Who Undermine Dissent on Syria
    By Jonathan Cook
    https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/07/05/the-useful-idiots-who-undermine-dissent-on-syria/

    • Abe
      July 6, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      The “winning” response from Brian Whitaker’s BFF at Bellingcat
      https://twitter.com/EliotHiggins/status/882650896374652928

      Fake “independent investigative journalist” Eliot Higgins and the Atlantic Council “regime change” think tank launders “open source” propaganda for the West’s Al Qaeda proxy forces in Syria.

      Bellingcat’s “narrative” is always “consistent” with the US-Israeli-Saudi Alliance’s war agenda in Syria.

      Propaganda stenographers like Whitaker, Malachy Browne at the New York Times, and all the gang at the “First Draft” coalition are eager to wrap Syria and gin up the next “regime change” war in Iran.

  35. Abe
    July 6, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Bellingcat flack and all around useful idiot George Monbiot keeps on Tweeting:
    https://twitter.com/GeorgeMonbiot/status/882309513172406272

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