Whistleblowers Confront OPCW Leadership’s Attacks & Cover-up in Douma

In two letters obtained by The Grayzone, a pair of chemical weapons inspectors respond to a recent inquiry dismissing them as rogue actors, Aaron Mate reports. 

By Aaron Maté

Two whistleblowing inspectors at the center of an Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) cover-up scandal are demanding that their suppressed findings get a fair, transparent, and scientific hearing. In formal letters to the OPCW director-general, the two veteran officials also refuted the OPCW’s leadership’s efforts to impugn their credibility.

“Why would a pair of the top Inspection Team Leaders, both with impeccable records… suddenly ‘go rogue’?” wrote one whistleblower in his letter.

“Why would we risk so much?” asked the other, answering, “Something had gone wrong inside the OPCW.”

Both inspectors were part of the team that deployed to Syria to investigate allegations of a chemical weapons attack in the eastern Damascus suburb of Douma in April 2018. The U.S. government accused the Syrian government of a chemical attack, justifying missile strikes on the country by Washington and European allies. 

But the inspectors in Douma found evidence that raised serious doubts that a chemical attack ever occurred, and which pointed instead to the staging of the incident by anti-Assad extremists. Their findings were suppressed by OPCW leaders who re-wrote their initial report, then excluded the investigators from the ensuing process. 

The letters by the two whistleblowers are a response to a recent OPCW inquiry that dismissed them as rogue actors “who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence,” and which baselessly accused them of “deliberate and premeditated breaches of confidentiality.” 

The pair of veteran inspectors are described by the OPCW as “Inspector A” and “Inspector B.” The letters formally addressed to OPCW Director-General General Fernando Arias were obtained by The Grayzone and are accessible below:

Inspector A is Ian Henderson, a South African engineer and veteran OPCW official. Henderson authored a detailed engineering assessment of two gas cylinders found at the scene of the alleged attacks in Douma. 

The OPCW’s final March 2019 report concluded that the cylinders were likely dropped from the air, however, Henderson found that there was “a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed” – presumably by opposition militants in Douma. The OPCW’s final report omitted this conclusion. 

Henderson’s findings came to light after they were leaked to a group of dissident British academics, the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, which published his report in May 2019. Both Henderson and Inspector B deny leaking the study, and the OPCW inquiry does not claim that they did. 

Inspector B is another veteran OPCW official and chemical weapons expert who has sought to remain anonymous. “B” played a senior role in the OPCW’s Douma probe as the chief author of the Douma team’s initial report. Later on, higher-level officials took control of the process and excluded his most essential conclusions.

Together, Henderson and “B” were the most experienced inspectors on the Douma mission. The pair recently provided British journalist Peter Hitchens with an annotated response to the OPCW’s inquiry. 

Why Would We Risk So Much?’

The two new letters published by The Grayzone provide fresh insight into the whistleblowers’ efforts to challenge the OPCW’s cover-up and get a fair hearing for their findings. 

“We are long-serving and dedicated OPCW supporters,” Henderson wrote. “We both have reams of documents such as performance appraisals, emails, letters of commendation and others, that reflect a history of service at the highest level in terms of qualifications, skills, expertise, leadership, integrity and professionalism throughout our time at the OPCW.”

“Does this not place the efforts by some to smear our reputations, on questionable ground?” he continued. “As a manager, as the highest official in the Organisation, does this not lead to the question: Why would a pair of the top Inspection Team Leaders, both with impeccable records… suddenly ‘go rogue’?”

“Our sole duty is to be true to the facts and the science, and once that has been achieved, we will gladly accept the proven and agreed scientific outcomes,” he emphasized.

Henderson also added a previously undisclosed detail that further calls into question the likelihood of a chlorine attack at Location 2. A cylinder was found on the building’s balcony; according to opposition activists, chlorine discharged from this cylinder, then made its way downward and killed several dozen people in its staircases. But Henderson explained why this scenario is highly questionable, if not impossible: “the upper parts of the building and the basement were not connected (i.e. the gas had to exit the building onto the street and re-enter the basement door).”

Inspector B’s letter echoes Henderson’s call for the public to see the suppressed evidence and scientific conclusions. 

“You have our utmost reassurance sir, that neither of us has ever tried to cause harm to your, or should I say, our Organisation,” B wrote. “We were there when it was created. We grew as it grew. We saw three Director Generals come and go, and we, as now, fervently believed in its mission — a shared goal that you are charged with carrying forward and to which we have contributed so much.”

“You need only look at our impeccable records and support to the TS over a combined tenure of almost 30 years,” B continued. “That we would suddenly ‘go rogue’ at the autumn of our careers, with nothing to gain and everything to lose, defies all logic. Why would we risk so much? To push a personal ‘view’? Hardly.”

B added, “Something had gone wrong inside the OPCW sir. And we wanted you to know. It’s that simple.”

Aaron Maté is a journalist and producer. He hosts “Pushback with Aaron Maté” on The Grayzone. He is also is contributor to The Nation magazine and former host/producer for The Real News and Democracy Now!. Aaron has also presented and produced for Vice, AJ+, and Al Jazeera.

This article is from The Grayzone.

Please Donate to Consortium News

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive or rude language toward other commenters or our writers will not be published.  If your comment does not immediately appear, please be patient as it is manually reviewed. For security reasons, please refrain from inserting links in your comments, which should not be longer than 300 words.

12 comments for “Whistleblowers Confront OPCW Leadership’s Attacks & Cover-up in Douma

  1. Richard Graham
    March 10, 2020 at 12:21

    Art Buchwald, “I always wanted to go into politics, but I wasn’t light enough to make the team.”
    H.L. Mencken: ‘Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.’
    Voltaire: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

    As the US has been lying to itself for decades, if not centuries, the logical conclusion has them electing a proudly ignorant, bare-faced liar as President. The world can no longer pretend US citizens know anything about the world, their own best interests, or the best interests of their longest allies and best friends. US oligarchs have put the world through three great recessions in 20 years, destroying decades of lower and middle class wealth. US citizens can’t be expected to defend democracy, expand human rights, maintain an incorruptible rule of ‘law’, or manage the most important part of world’s economy.

    COVID-19 is about to expose US leadership’s complete lack of intelligence as it will spread countrywide in a matter of weeks. Laurie Garrett published her great books, The Coming Plague, and Betrayal of Trust, nearly 30 years ago and no one listened, no one read them. Despite the obvious facts displayed by every other Western government, that government-paid health care is both cheaper and more effective, US citizens still believe it is some kind of Commie plot, and completely unaffordable.

    So the USA could now experience upwards of 5% deaths and massive morbidity, essentially 20 million deaths and the collapse of their economy. This atrocity was foretold, just like the collapse of the last three stock market bubbles. US opponents go to bed drunk with the knowledge their enemy is led by a school-yard gang of corrupt, arrogant fools. It makes Iran, China and Russia look like soft beds of stability, reason and restraint.

    • Eugenie Basile
      March 11, 2020 at 02:53

      Seeing the covid19 as some kind of punishment for failure of past policies is not a sign of wisdom.

  2. Andrew Thomas
    March 10, 2020 at 10:39

    The further upshot of this is what it means for our perceptions of what comes out of the official mouths of all international agencies. There is more than enough evidence, between this tale and others, to make it clear that the prudent thing to do is disbelieve all of what they say unless there is a lot of evidence we actually get to see from other sources that substantiates those claims. Since that almost never happens, the only realistic conclusion we can come to after the initial period of hard scepticism is that the declarations were, in fact, lies and that no one was willing to wreck their lives by blowing the whistle, and leaking the ignored information to a real journalist like Aaron Mate’. The implications of this are profound.

  3. March 10, 2020 at 00:43

    The total and absolute corruption of all MSM at this point is absolutely breathtaking. Look no further to understand why we Americans are the most highly propagandized and therefore the most clueless people on the entire planet.

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      March 10, 2020 at 19:34

      Very well said about MSM. I haven idea why anyone watches, reads or listens to MSM when so many excellent sources of news and analysis are available. Sometimes I think that Americans are addicted to propaganda. A special case is with NPR. I know many, otherwise very intelligent, people who cannot live without NPR even when they should realize how they manipulate people’s opinions through half truths mixed with occasional lies.

      Here is a great characterization of quite a large numbers of many news sources.

  4. Jeff Harrison
    March 9, 2020 at 19:38

    One cannot miss the malign influence of the United States Government in its on-going quest for imperial hegemony at work here in Syria (as well as many other places). Remember, if the US accuses some other country of something, it’s an odds on favorite that the US is the one actually guilty of the behavior and we’re trying to obfuscate the situation. It is a sad state of affairs when the nation that is supposed to be leading the world towards a more humane and rules based order is instead subverting the efforts of the rest of the world to arrive at a more humane and orderly environment.

  5. Joe Tedesky
    March 9, 2020 at 14:23

    Thanks Aaron Mate for keeping us up to date on this very important OPCW story. I would like to add that Consortium is to be commended for their detailed reporting of the many (Left out of the MSM) stories that should concern all of us fake news fed Americans.

    In an America where rhetorical smears replace conscience struck whistleblowers we citizens find ourselves starved of what should matter most and, with this media reality we all lose. A clear example of this is found in the DNC smears against presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. And let us not forget Chelsea Manning who pulled back the curtain exposing America’s Middle East war crimes carried forward by the US Government to result in the awful punishment drawn upon Julian Assange to this day and too no end. Here in all of this plus more is where freedom of speech dies at the hands of the smear mongers and corrupt at heart. It will take more than a US president to fix this broken nation who runs ruin upon the world. Are you all ready for the task?

    • Sam F
      March 9, 2020 at 20:03

      Very good point, Joe, that the tasks of rebuilding democracy are all around us, and will not be done by simply choosing a president. And indeed Gabbard shows us that no one qualified can win the presidency, until we have restored democracy by other means. In addition to the contributions of our best alternative journalists and whistleblowers, I have proposed a College of Policy Debate to protect all viewpoints and make commented debate summaries available on the web with mini-quizzes. But I suspect that regardless of our rational contributions, a long painful era of disruption and sacrifice stands between us and democracy. Good to see you commenting again!

    • Skip Scott
      March 10, 2020 at 09:26

      Good to hear from you Joe. I agree that Aaron and CN are to be commended for staying with this story. It has been flushed down the “memory hole” over at the MSM. I would love to see people abandon cable TV in droves. Most people pay the bill each month without realizing the evil they are supporting. They have been hypnotized by infotainment. I think of most Americans as spoiled children who have no idea as to the extent of the evil being brought upon most of the rest of the world by our war machine. They are hypnotized and isolated. Identity politics and meaningless ranting has replaced serious discussion of issues that will determine our survival. We are in a sad state indeed. At least we got to live most of our lives before it all comes tumbling down, but I cry inside when I look at my friends’ kids and grandkids.

    • Joe Tedesky
      March 10, 2020 at 14:24

      Sam I remember your proposal for a College of Policy Debate and, I support your idea. Good too hear of it again.

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      March 10, 2020 at 19:37

      Here is an excellent ranking of many news sources, the good, the bad and the ugly…. Both CN and Gray Zone featured here as excellent sources.


  6. Eugenie Basile
    March 9, 2020 at 14:01

    MSM is not reporting on this yet but will as soon as they have anonymous intelligence sources claiming the whistleblowers are Russian agents.

Comments are closed.