WHO on Douma

Jordan Peterson, a fellow Torontonian who is obviously not shy about challenging authority, recently cited the World Health Organization (WHO) on Douma chemical attacks as follows:

WHO says: “Bombs were dropped at two locations in Douma. Within hours, more than 500 people were exhibiting symptoms consistent with suffocation by poison gas.”

On such a controversial issue, it is entirely understandable why Peterson (or any other concerned person) would look to WHO for an unbiased and authoritative opinion.

However, in this case, reliance was unjustified. WHO did not have any personnel in Douma and did not carry out any due diligence or verification prior to issuing its statement. (Its published statement was very caveated, but the caveats were ignored in nearly all media reports on the WHO statement.)  WHO did not disclose its sources, but they appear to be primarily two medical NGOs, Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS) and the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), which are active in parts of Syria controlled by Al Qaeda and allied jihadists e.g. Jaish al-Islam then in control of Douma. However, neither of these NGOs appears to have actually had employees present in Douma on April 7.

In this article, I’ll closely examine the actual sources for the UOSSM, SAMS, VDC and WHO statements, finding that the claims in their statements are typically third- or even fourth-hand, often inconsistent, often derived only from Jaish al-Islam social media. Worst of all, the chemical symptoms attributed to patients by supposedly authoritative organizations do not appear to originate from local medical staff, but from jihadist media activists who were merely reciting stereotyped lists.  These were then passed in several stages to western media, in a modern social media version of Pass The Telephone.

 

 

Original Videos and Photos

Douma was heavily bombed through April 7, resulting in massive fires. Many victims of bombing, smoke inhalation and suffocation were reported through the day. From time to time, Jaish al-Islam social media activists alleged use of chemicals during the day, as they did frequently.

The situation was transformed by the publication of photos of dead bodies in a contorted pile, published just before 11 pm Damascus time (19:53Z) by Jaish al-Islam social media (Douma Revolution, Yaser al-Doumani, Fadi Abdullah, mofak_1994).  Photos and videos of patients at the emergency ward of the Douma main hospital were published just before midnight Damascus time (21:00Z), also by Jaish al-Islam activist social media. The photos and videos were disseminated on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, together with harsh commentary on the number of dead and sickened.

UOSSM official Zaher Sahloul (tweets here) and SAMS official Mohamed Khatoub, both located outside of Syria, participated actively in social media throughout April 7 and 8, both personally and through their institutions, playing an important role in disseminating Jaish al-Islam photos, videos and allegations to western media and the US government.  Sahloul, for example, re-tweeted original Jaish al-Islam victim photos within half an hour of their uploading and re-tweeted the first Jaish al-Islam victim video within 10 minutes of its uploading, copying it to international media ( @cnni @BBCWorld @FoxNews @FRANCE24) and sympathetic US government (@nikkihaley @statedeptspox [Heather Nauert] @IvankaTrump).

UOSSM Statement, April 7 21:25Z

Less than half an hour after the first hospital photos and videos, less than half an hour after the first victim video and less than 1.5 hours after the first victim photos, at 21:25Z on April 7 (just after midnight Damascus), UOSSM issued a statement from Washington (announced by tweet).  The statement included a video link to a copy of the initial Douma Revolution victim video (which had been uploaded to Youtube at 20:49Z, less than half an hour earlier).

The relevant section of the statement was as follows (subsequent paragraphs were rhetoric and did not provide any new facts):

A massive chemical weapon attack was just reported in Douma, Eastern Ghouta today. Early reports indicate 25 people have been killed and over 500 civilians have been injured with the numbers set to rise. Many of the victims were children. The attack coincides with numerous attacks on medical facilities in Douma today rendering the largest hospital out of service and a Red Crescent medical facility heavily damaged.  The damage inflicted was amplified by the large number of internally displaced people, forced to crowd tightly together in shelters. There are an estimated 170,000 people remaining in Douma served by a small number of doctors and medical staff.
 …
** Communication and medical verification in Douma is extremely limited due to the siege.
While this statement included the claim that “numerous” health facilities had been attacked during the day of April 7, but not the additional embellishment that they had been attacked using “highly toxic chemicals”.  It included the specific claim that the “largest hospital” in Douma (the facility shown in the hospital videos) had been rendered “out of service” and that a Red Crescent “medical facility” had been “heavily damaged”. These particular claims are ones that could be objectively verified.
The figure of “500” used in the WHO statement also occurs in this statement: “over 500 civilians injured” (WHO:  500 “exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals”). The UOSSM statement reported 25 deaths (WHO: a total of “more than 70”, of which “43 related” to chemical symptoms).
UOSSM did not provide any sources for their claims.  There is no evidence of any attempt by UOSSM to independently verify any of these claims, all of which appear to be entirely based on Jaish al-Islam social media.
VDC

The Violations Documentation Center published a web article on April 8, purporting to describe the chemical attack. They reported 45 deaths from two chemical incidents: 25 from incident 2 at Saada Bakery and 20 from incident 3 at Martyrs’ Square.

Their article began with a report that the Red Crescent ambulance service was “rendered out of service” through bombing early in the afternoon of April 7. It did not attribute the damage to a chemical attack, an embellishment that appears to have originated with the WHO.

Saturday, April 7, 2018 at approximately 12pm (0900Z): A Red Crescent center in Douma is targeted with two guided missiles and several barrel bombs. The center is immediately rendered out of service and ambulances are destroyed. The only remaining service for transporting the wounded in Douma is the civil defence. Syrian warplanes continue to drop barrel bombs that disrupt the travel of civil defense vehicles and rescue teams who are transporting the wounded due to lack of ambulance services. Majed Kamel (pseudonym), a member of the Red Crescent in Douma, told the VDC:

“At around 12pm on Saturday, April 7, the Red Crescent center in Douma was targeted with two missiles via an air raid. The center went out of service completely and the ambulances were destroyed. These were the last ambulances available in Douma. We began to rely on the civil defence’s vehicles to rescue the wounded.”

The next attack in their report was a supposed chemical attack targeting the Saada Bakery in the late afternoon, as a result of which VDC reported approximately 25 casualties, though they were unable to locate the “chlorine rocket”:

Saturday, April 7, 2018 at approximately 4pm [1300Z]: The Syrian air force targets Saada Bakery on Omar Ibn Al-Khattab street in with an airstrike suspected to have contained poisonous gas. Said Rajeh (pseudonym), a member of the civil defence civil defense crews, told the VDC:

“At the start of the chemical attacks, the smell of chlorine reached the center of the city of Douma. We could not determine the area where the chlorine rocket had fallen. Dead bodies were on the streets, the wounded were bleeding badly, and the medical crews were not sufficient for the large amount of cases.”

“We later discovered the bodies of people who had suffocated from toxic gases. They were in closed spaces, sheltering from the barrel bombs, which may have caused their quick death as no one heard their screams. Some of them were apparently trying to reach an open space because we found their bodies on the stairs.”

Social media from Douma, even Jaish al-Islam social media, document heavy conventional bombing, severe fires through the afternoon and numerous fatalities, some (perhaps many) of which would be due to suffocation in the fires.

The last paragraph of VDC’s account of April 7 almost certainly refers to the discovery of dead bodies that was lavishly documented in videos and photos uploaded by Jaish al-Islam social media at approximately 11 pm (2000Z), approximately 7 hours after the alleged attack on Saada Bakery.

However, there are some important inconsistencies between VDC and the video/photo evidence. Contrary to the bodies being found in basements (as claimed by WHO) or “closed spaces” (VDC), where they were believed to have been trapped by toxic gases, the bodies in the videos and photos were all found above ground: the largest number in a first floor apartment only a few steps from the street, with four bodies actually located in the open street outside the building. Two bodies were indeed found in a stairwell leading down to the open street. Their inability to reach the street (as well as the others) is hard to explained given the relatively low and slow toxicity of chlorine.  One victim, after reaching the open street, unaccountably placed himself on a stretcher and covered himself with a blanket.

In addition, the location of the discovered dead bodies is inconsistent with an attack in the area of Saada Bakery.   In the top panel, I’ve shown an excerpt from the VDC location map: Saada Bakery is at the center of the area 2. (Area 3 in this location map shows a 7:30 pm incident which will be described below the figure). In the bottom panel, I’ve shown the same area as depicted in Wikimapia, marking areas 2 and 3 with a yellow circle. The location of the massacre house (which was firmly located  subsequent to the VDC report) is shown as a solid red dot. It is located 560 meters to the east of Saada Bakery. This is much too far for any causal connection between the attack in the Saada Bakery area and the dead bodies in the massacre house, which cannot be attributed to the Saada Bakery attack.

The third incident described by VDC was an attack on Martyrs’ Square near the mosque on the south-east corner of the major intersection at 7:30 pm (16:30Z). Whereas the 4 pm incident was supposedly connected to the dead bodies in the victim videos, the 7:30 pm incident was supposedly connected to the hospital videos and photos uploaded around midnight, about 4 1/2 hours later.

VDC’s report was based on two sources: an anonymous doctor and Dr Mohamed Khatoub, a SAMS official located in Turkey. The anonymous doctor described events as follows:

Saturday, April 7, 2018at approximately 7:30pm [16:30Z]The Syrian air force targets Martyrs’ Square near the Numan Mosque in Douma with an airstrike suspected to have contained poisonous gas. Dr. Jamal Rafie (pseudonym), told the VDC that the symptoms that he saw on patients “do not resemble chlorine attack symptoms. Chlorine alone cannot induce such symptoms because while it does cause suffocation, it does not affect the nerves. There were symptoms indicative of organic phosphorus compounds in the sarin gas category. But the smell of chlorine was also present in the place.”

Although chlorine and nerve agents (e.g. sarin) present quite different symptoms, the doctor appears to have wanted to please advocates of either: a gas that smelled like chlorine, but acted like sarin.

VDC reported Katoub’s evidence as follows:

Dr. Mohammed Kuttoub from the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) told the VDC that his colleagues in Eastern Ghouta saw symptoms on people that include: “pinpoint pupils, slow heartbeat, slow breathing, heavy foaming from the mouth and nose, and the burning of the cornea in some cases.”

Since Katoub was in Turkey, his evidence was (at a minimum) second-hand. His evidence also referred to living patients at the hospital and medical centers (slow heartbeat, slow breathing) rather than to the dead victims in the videos.

In other words, VDC’s information on symptoms was a combination of third-hand information via a SAMS official and inconsistent second-hand information from an anonymous doctor.

Joint SAMS-White Helmets Statement, April 8 07:57Z

Early in the morning of April 8 ( 07:57Z), the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS) and White Helmets issued a joint statement (announced and linked by a SAMS tweet here). It began by acknowledging that Douma had been “subjected to heavy shelling” that had resulted in “dozens” of deaths and “hundreds” of injured. It asserted that the shelling had resulted in destruction of the “majority” of emergency service centers and many ambulances:

Washington, D.C.- Following a brief ceasefire that only lasted for a couple of days, the city of Douma, East Ghouta, was again subjected to heavy shelling that resulted in dozens of casualties and hundreds of injuries. The attacks included the systematic targeting of medical centers and civil defense teams, resulting in the  the destruction of the majority of the civil defense centers and a large number of ambulances and rescue vehicles, heavily paralyzing the medical capacity of the city.

It then stated that “more than 500 cases” “with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent” had been “brought to local medical centers”, including a description of their supposed symptoms. Its statement was accompanied by two photos (shown below), both of which, though bearing a SAMS watermark, actually originated with Jaish al-Islam social media (top here; bottom here). They described patients as follows:

On Saturday, April 7th, at 7:45 PM local time, amidst continuous bombardment of residential neighborhoods in the city of Douma, more than 500 cases -the majority of whom are women and children- were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent. Patients have shown signs of respiratory distress, central cyanosis, excessive oral foaming, corneal burns, and the emission of chlorine-like odor. During clinical examination, medical staff observed bradycardia, wheezing and coarse bronchial sounds.

One of the injured was declared dead on arrival. Other patients were treated with humidified oxygen and bronchodilators, after which their condition improved.In several cases involving more severe exposure to the chemical agents, medical staff put patients on a ventilator, including four children. Six casualties were reported at the center, one of whom was a woman who had convulsions and pinpoint pupils.

The first sentence is almost exactly equivalent to the later WHO statement, which reported “an estimated 500 patients presented to health facilities exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals“. The symptoms listed in the SAMS-White Helmet statement substantially correspond with Katoub’s statement to VDC.  The symptoms listed by WHO (“severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems”) appear to be derived from this information.

The SAMS-White Helmets statement continued:

SAMS has documented 43 casualties with similar clinical symptoms of excessive oral foaming, cyanosis, and corneal burns. Civil Defense volunteers were unable to evacuate the bodies due to the intensity of the odor and the lack of protective equipment. The reported symptoms indicate that the victims suffocated from the exposure to toxic chemicals, most likely an organophosphate element.

Following the chemical attack, the target site and the surrounding area of the hospital receiving the injured were attacked with barrel bombs, which hindered the ability of the ambulances to reach the victims.

This figure of “43” is almost certainly the source of WHO’s “43 … deaths related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals”, as this specific number of deaths doesn’t (to my knowledge) appear elsewhere in social media.  None of the various videographers, photographers or their companions wore protective equipment for their photo and video sessions in the evening of April 7, other than one White Helmet ostentatiously dressing up in a gas mask for a single photo. Four of the bodies were located on the street outside the building (though this was not known until details in the April 7 videos were matched against street scenes taken the following day.)While foaming is evident in many bodies, the quality of this evidence is diminished by the fact that, for at least two bodies, foam is not present in the earliest video, only in later videos.

April 8-9, UOSSM
During the night of April 8-9, UOSSM gave a revised estimate of 70 deaths to BBC (here, linked from tweet):
The Union of Medical Relief Organizations, a US-based charity that works with Syrian hospitals, told the BBC the Damascus Rural Specialty Hospital had confirmed 70 deaths.
The same BBC article reported the same number from White Helmets (noting that they had deleted an earlier claim of 150 deaths):
“Seventy people suffocated to death and hundreds are still suffocating,” said Raed al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets. An earlier, now deleted tweet, put the number dead at more than 150.
Later in the day of Apr 9, UOSSM issued a supplementary statement, reducing their estimate to 42 deaths, more or less matching the figure of 43 deaths issued by SAMS the previous day.

42 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds affected by the chemical attack on Douma in eastern Ghouta on Saturday April 7. Many of the victims were women and children and experienced symptoms consistent with inhaling toxic gas.

*Earlier, UOSSM reported 70 confirmed dead, but due to conflicting reports, and difficulty gathering data we are confident that at least 42 are confirmed dead, those numbers are expected to rise. Some of the symptoms victims experienced include: cyanosis, foaming of the mouth, cornea irritation, and the strong odor of a chlorine like substance.

In this revised statement, UOSSM used the phrase “symptoms consistent with inhaling toxic gas”, paraphrasing the SAMS statement. Their list of symptoms similarly paraphrased items 2-5 in the SAMS list (“central cyanosis, excessive oral foaming, corneal burns, and the emission of chlorine-like odor”).  UOSSM’s claims do not appear to be primary, but entirely derived from other sources.
On April 16, Tawfik Chamaa, Secretary of UOSSM, was interviewed on French television.

WHO, April 11

First, I’ll review the widely cited World Health Organization statement issued on April 11, both to (1) trace the sources of its claims; and (2) discuss information on their validity (or not).  The relevant paragraphs are excerpted below.  (The WHO statement contained several additional paragraphs abhorring the attack, but without additional facts or evidence supporting or expanding beyond the sparse paragraphs quoted below.)

WHO concerned about suspected chemical attacks in Syria

Statement
11 April 2018

WHO is deeply alarmed by reports of the suspected use of toxic chemicals in Douma city, East Ghouta.

According to reports from Health Cluster partners, during the shelling of Douma on Saturday, an estimated 500 patients presented to health facilities exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals. In particular, there were signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed.

More than 70 people sheltering in basements have reportedly died, with 43 of those deaths related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals. Two health facilities were also reportedly affected by these attacks.

Several issues on the provenance of these claims, which go to how much confidence can be placed in them:

  • first and importantly, WHO did not themselves conduct any independent due diligence or verification on any of its claims in respect to the number or symptoms of patients attending health facilities, but relied entirely on “reports from Health Cluster partners”. Who were these “Health Cluster partners” and how reliable were they?
  • similarly, they did not have first hand knowledge of the number of deaths of “people sheltering in basements”, or the number of those deaths attributable to “highly toxic chemicals”. They qualify both assertions with the word “reportedly”, but did not provide any sources.
  • thirdly, WHO did not have first hand knowledge that “two health facilities” were attacked with “highly toxic chemicals”. This claim is almost certainly untrue and refutable even on the video record. What was the origin of the WHO claims?

There is no doubt that Douma was subject to intensive bombing on April 7 or that this bombing caused massive fires or that people suffocated from the fires, many of whom died.  The issue is whether any of the deaths or suffocation were caused by chlorine or nerve agents.

One can surmise that the “Health Cluster partners” were UOSSM, Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS) and White Helmets, all of which are closely allied with jihadist organizations in Syria. In addition, neither UOSSM nor SAMS appears to have had any official employees in Douma on April 7. As a result, statements by UOSSM and SAMS appear to derive entirely or almost entirely from White Helmets and/or Jaish al-Islam social media. Each of their statements needs to be analysed both as to (1) whether they justify/support WHO assertions; (2) whether they are based on first hand information; (3) whether they are consistent with other evidence.

Discussion
Peterson’s quotation did not actually come from WHO itself, but from an article in the National Post, in which reporter Terry Glavine purported to summarize claims originating with  WHO, UOSSM and VDC.

Believe Robert Fisk and your conscience will not trouble you, and you won’t have to believe the World Health Organization, the Syria Violations Documentation Centre or the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations [UOSSM]. This is what they say: Bombs were dropped at two locations in Douma. Within hours, more than 500 people were exhibiting symptoms consistent with suffocation by poison gas. At least 42 people died.

But did WHO (or the others) really say that?

 

Jaish al-Islam is the jihadist faction which controlled Douma for the past seven years. Zahran Alloush, their founder and inspirational leader, was virulently Wahhabist, calling for ethnic cleansing and extermination of Rafidi (Shia) and Alawites and a return to sharia law.  About four years ago, Jaish al-Islam was reported to have captured about 4000 Shia from the village of Adra and used them as slaves in construction of a vast system of underground tunnels. The rescue of these prisoners was a priority of the Syrian government. Knowing this, Jaish al-Islam notoriously paraded captive women in cages to discourage government air attacks. When the long-sought prisoner exchange recently took place, it turned out that only a few hundred prisoners had

UOSSM, like SAMS, is an NGO which supports medical services in areas of Syria controlled by Al Qaeda and other Salafists (but not in government-controlled areas fighting Al Qaeda, ISIS and Taliban-equivalents).  UOSSM’s chairman, Dr. Ghanem Tayara, is a general practitioner in Birmingham, England.

Discussion
While evidence from numerous Douma medical staff has been totally discounted in western media, VDC’s supposed evidence is much slighter in comparison.

In recent interviews, numerous Douma medical staff stated unequivocally that the hospital had NOT been subjected to a chemical attack and that none of their patients on April 7 had demonstrated symptoms of a chemical attack. They unanimously described the events in the photos and videos as having been staged by White Helmets, who had brought videographers and photographers to the emergency ward with them. They said that the White Helmets had, seemingly on cue, yelled out that there was a chemical attack and began washing protocols. Then, after obtaining their videos, they departed as quickly as they arrived.

There is nothing in the hospital videos that contradicts this description. The events in the videos cover a very short period of time and involve a limited number of people. White Helmets are everywhere – mostly not doing very much. None of the doctors or nurses (or the numerous White Helmets or pre-arranged videographers and photographers) take any precautions against nerve agents (or chlorine) and none suffered any damage.

Nor do any of these symptoms described by Dr Khatoub exist in the widely disseminated photo and video evidence. None of the hospital photos or videos show the slightest evidence of “pinpoint pupils” characteristic of nerve agents or “heavy foaming from the mouth and nose” or “burning of the cornea”. On the contrary, the children all appear perfectly healthy, other than the discomfort of being splashed with cold water by adult men, with their big earnest eyes being the exact opposite of Katoub’s “pinpoint pupils”.

Image may contain: 3 people, people sittingImage may contain: 1 person, sitting

 

Two questions:

  • which claims

Their statement does not contain any claims which were not previously asserted in Jaish al-Islam social media:

  • the figure of “500 casualties” was claimed by Jaish al-Islam activist Yaser al-Doumani more than four hours earlier at 16:57Z (well before the hospital and victim videos).
  • the claim that the “the largest hospital [was] out of service” was untrue – as shown by videos from the emergency ward from that hospital that were so widely disseminated.  The claim that https://twitter.com/MhdKatoub/status/982599511058124800 12:42Z Assad warplanes attacked 2 hospitals and Syrian Red Crescent center in #Douma in the past 24 hours.
  • https://twitter.com/UOSSMUS/status/982687424173273088  same as WH photo. RT SahloulUOSSM sources on the ground say 6 people killed and 700 suffocation cases from a reported chemical attack on Douma, Ghouta; Largest area hospital destroyed

 

with the conspicuous exception of pinpoint pupils (miosis), perhaps the most characteristic symptom of nerve agents, while adding cyanosis (bluish discoloration), another characteristic of nerve agents. Neither list included two important characteristics of nerve agent impact: loss of bowel control or convulsions (neither of which was in the videos).  The SAMS-White Helmet statement also wanted to give fodder to both chlorine and sarin advocates, as it (inconsistently) offered nerve agent type symptoms with a chlorine-like odor.

 

Khatoub to VDC SAMS-WH Statement
slow breathing respiratory distress
central cyanosis (bluish)
pinpoint pupils
slow heartbeat bradycardia
heavy foaming from the mouth and nose excessive oral foaming
 burning of the cornea corneal burns
emission of chlorine-like odor

The WHO statement was less specific but connected to these lists. It stated that the “500” patients had experienced “disruption to central nervous systems”; “respiratory failure”

severe irritation of mucous membranes,  and  of those exposed

  • respiratory distress (SAMS)  =>  respiratory failure (WHO)
  • central cyanosis  =>

Figures of “500 casualties” were widespread in Jaish al-Islam social media on April 7, but the WHO claim is more specific: that these “500” “patients” attended “health facilities exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals [with] signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed.” These claims are obviously contradictory to statements from Douma medical staff who, in various venues, have denied that any patients on April 7 exhibited symptoms of a chemical attack, instead saying that symptoms of their patients were those of ordinary war (including smoke inhalation from fires.) None of the White Helmet hospital videos show evidence of patients with “severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed”. On the contrary, miosis (characteristic of nerve agents) was distinctly absent from patients in the hospital videos, all of eyes were bright, alert and attractive.

None of the victim videos showed bodies from people “sheltering in basements”. On the contrary, all the bodies in the massacre house were on the first floor, second floor, open stairwell or even on the street outside (one already on a stretcher). None were located in a basement. It is by no means certain that the people died in the precise location where their bodies were displayed in the first videos and photos. Indeed, even between videos, bodies were moved into more photogenic locations.  They stated that “43 of those deaths related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals”, but did not state which symptoms they had in mind”. Many dead bodies displayed profuse foaming from their mouths.  However, in at least a few cases, bodies, which lacked foam in the earliest video, displayed plentiful foam in later videos. Such post-mortem foaming is “consistent with” foam being manually applied to already dead bodies.

Further, there is zero evidence for the specific claim that two health facilities were “affected” by “attacks” by “highly toxic chemicals”.  Douma doctors and medical staff flatly repudiated the claim that their facilities had been subject to a chemical attack – pointing not least to their own survival without protective equipment.

 

 

 

 

The same Jaish al-Islam videographers and social media accounts were also responsible for taking and initial distribution of the videos and photos of approximately 40 dead bodies in a single small apartment building, which were disseminated more or less concurrently with the hospital videos. The combination of the hospital videos with the apartment videos made the overall impression even more forceful.

Remarkably, the very same Jaish al-Islam social media also introduced the figures of 500 (or alternatively 1000) casualties (“wounded”,”injured”) from the chemical attack. In the rest of this article, I’ll show how these figures, more or less fabricated by Fadi Abdullah, Yaser al-Doumani and/or their associates, were disseminated to the west by, each embellishing the original jihadist fabrications, and by the World Health Organization, which unwisely embroiled itself in this incident without making any attempt at verification. Then, as we all know, this social media version of “Pass the Telephone” was used in US, UK and French intelligence assessments to justify bombing Syrian government forces, which were actively fighting the jihadist groups that the US government is supposedly fighting.

 

, but relied on  Each statement was qualified as “reportedly” or “suspected”.  As it stands, there are serious issues with each assertion:

  • Douma medical staff have universally  denied that they received any patients exhibiting symptoms of a chemical attack. Because WHO did not verify the allegations, their assertion of an “estimated 500 patients” is only as strong as their sources. Unfortunately,
  • 35 (maybe ~40) bodies were discovered in a single small apartment building, but NONE of the dead bodies were discovered “sheltering in basements”.  Where did this misinformation arise? WHO did not identify the symptoms that it had in mind as being “consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals”. I’ll discuss the related evidence from UOSSM and SAMS-White Helmets.
  • WHO did not say which “two health facilities” were “affected” by the alleged chemical attack. The medical staff at Douma medical center specifically denied any chemical attack on their hospital. The opposing allegations again depend on UOSSM and SAMS-White Helmets.

 

For someone trying to form a good faith opinion on what happened in Douma, the issue is not trying to decide between the seemingly authoritative World Health Organization statement and contradictory statements by actual Douma medical staff, who may or may not be subject to coercion or influence, but between the statements by actual Douma medical staff and unverified claims by jihadist-sympathizing NGOs or, worse, White Helmets themselves.

However, when examined in detail, the notorious hospital videos are themselves strong evidence in favor of the doctors’ narrative. The original hospital videos total only a few minutes in length and all pertain to a single incident (characters being easily traceable from one video to the next). None of the patients in the video display the pinprick pupils characteristic of nerve agent attacks; none are coughing up blood; none display convulsions. Underneath the commotion, everyone is surprisingly healthy looking.   Viewed in the perspective of doctors’ evidence, the videos are entirely consistent with the incident being a jihadi flash mob, just as described by the doctors.

The videos were taken by two Jaish al-Islam videographers (Fadi Abdullah of Douma Revolution and Yaser al-Doumani), apparently working together. They (and related photos) were first released on jihadist social media (Facebook, Twitter and Youtube) for Douma Revolution and Yaser al-Doumani.

 

[1] https://twitter.com/RevolutionSyria/status/982592455852904448

 

About a week ago, I had become intrigued at where the figure of 500 (or sometimes 1000) casualties had originated. Having closely examined jihadist and NGO social media, the figure first occurs, not in hospital reports, but with the very same Jaish al-Islam propaganda arms which first published the hospital and victim videos. The figures were propagated by officials of two virulently anti-Syrian pseudo-NGOs: Syrian American Medical Society(SAMS) and UOSSM, backed respectively by the US and French governments. None of the officials involved in the propagation were even present in Douma. They not merely disseminated Jaish al-Islam assertions, but further embellished them. The World Health Organization exacerbated the misinformation in an editorial denunciation of the alleged chemical attack. Its editorial included caveats, which were immediately ignored as the figures entered into mainstream media and then government policy.

Subsequent to the Douma incident, medical staff from the Douma hospital (and even one of the children in the hospital videos) have publicly stated that there was no chemical attack on the hospital and that none of the children at the hospital had symptoms of a chemical attack. (This is not to say that the hospitals were not busy with patients, as Douma was heavily bombed during April 7, leading to massive fires with victims suffering from both smoke inhalation and suffocation.)  The evidence from Douma doctors has been mostly disregarded in western media on the grounds that they have been coerced or intimidated by Russia and/or the Syrian government.

 


130 Comments

  1. AntonyIndia
    Posted May 25, 2018 at 9:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The OPCW although also Western dominated is more careful than the WHO, probably because chemical weapon tracking is its only reason for existence and thus reputation + funding.
    The WHO can afford to miserably fail in this niche as they have hundreds of other life threatening issues on their hands.
    The WHO’s no.1 and no.3 financial backers are the US and the UK dwarfing all others except for no.2, the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. I wonder what the latter think of the WHO as political tool. See page 5 of http://www.who.int/about/finances-accountability/budget-portal/rr_2016-17.pdf

    • Posted May 26, 2018 at 11:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Shame on the WHO if they simply were a mouthpiece for unsubstantiated reporting with no attempt at verification.

      Steve, are they exhuming the bodies? Is there a report coming?

  2. mpainter
    Posted May 25, 2018 at 9:44 PM | Permalink | Reply

    There have been reported over the years scores of chemical attacks against rebels populations. Steve McIntyre would have us believe that these reports are all false by a one sided presentation of this Douma incident, relying mainly on inconsistencies in reports. He ignores the truism that inconsistency is the rule, rather than the exception, in such conditions where there are two factions each trying to spin the tale by their lights. His detailed parsing is inconclusive. What a fruitless labor.

    Steve, shame on you for retweeting all propaganda supportive of Assad, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranian crazies. Shame, shame.

    • AntonyIndia
      Posted May 25, 2018 at 10:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

      There have been reported over the years scores of sea level rises. Steve McIntyre would have us believe that these reports are all false by a one sided presentation of an incident, relying mainly on inconsistencies in reports. His detailed parsing is inconclusive. What a fruitless labor.
      Steve, shame on you for retweeting all propaganda supportive of WUWT, Climate etc., rankexploits, pielkeclimatesci. Shame, shame.

      We want your audits only on some fields and only if the result suits us.
      Better retweet the 97% consensus of the Pentagon, Al Qaeda, Mi6, ISIS, CIA, Mossad, Jaysh al-Islam, ASIS.

    • mpainter
      Posted May 25, 2018 at 11:20 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Steve McIntyre’s Twitter account is the grave of his reputation as a careful analyst. His rank propagandizing on behalf of Assad, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and against their opponents is disgusting. He has heaped discredit on himself.

      • AntonyIndia
        Posted May 26, 2018 at 12:23 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Twitter? Compared to realDonaldTrump’s reputation, James_Clapper’s, John O. Brennan’s, Micheal E. Mann’s or whose?
        Twitter is only a temporary track to bypass the roadblocks of MSN, as long as it lasts.

    • Bitter&twisted
      Posted May 28, 2018 at 3:35 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Look up “Taqiyya”.

    • EJD
      Posted May 29, 2018 at 9:34 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Wondering if you have any counter factual evidence to his claims or just ad hominems?

    • markx
      Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Reply

      No, mpainter, Steve does not comment on earlier alleged attacks. Just this particular alleged attack.

      He’s simply detailed the evidence which is available:

      And, in this particular alleged chemical weapons attack which prompted immediate retaliatory air raids from US/UK/French forces, an independent observer would certainly conclude, that at the very least, evidence of such an attack was not conclusive, and very probably was faked.

  3. AntonyIndia
    Posted May 25, 2018 at 9:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

    In the larger view of WMD, why were only chemical weapons banned?

    For nuclear weapons it is clear, the 5 permanent UN Security Council members wanted to freeze their monopoly on them through the NPT signed in 1968-70.
    Biological weapons seem more risky for Humanity as a whole as viruses etc. today can spread around the globe in days through airports. They should have been banned first. Some of these 5 UNSC members might have invested too much in them, or maybe thought to be able to make them DNA specific??
    Chemical weapons being cheap and simple are the poor megalomaniac’s first choice but they cannot spread more that just locally and also kill or wound the deployers when wind suddenly changes. They can only kill living beings leaving infrastructure intact, like neutron bombs.
    Ban them as they might become as popular as “normal” rapid chemical reaction = explosive weapons, but more important it gives the ignorant World population the impression “something” is done about WMDs.

    • Posted May 26, 2018 at 11:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Antony, you bring up a good but old point: why not outlaw war? That has been done (see Kellogg-Briand Pact).

      So we limited the horror by making rules. The use of projectiles and explosives have a long enough history that they are acceptable. The use of a neutron bomb and chemical-biological agents are thankfully too repugnant even for most megalomaniacs. Lines are drawn.

      • AntonyIndia
        Posted May 27, 2018 at 12:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Small steps?
        It would also need enforcement – by whom and how?

  4. AntonyIndia
    Posted May 27, 2018 at 4:17 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The WHO’s public point man on this is Tarik Jasarevic, who hopped into the UN in Kosovo from the Bosnian army: https://ch.linkedin.com/in/tarik-jasarevic-5980345

    Reminiscences of US camp Bondsteel…

  5. Posted May 27, 2018 at 4:57 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for your meticulous research and keen analysis. Please keep it up.

  6. Don Monfort
    Posted May 27, 2018 at 5:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This is really pathetic. If the bloody glove don’t fit, you must acquit. Another gratuitous Johnny Cochrane style defense of the indefensible. Pathetic and useless. A reputation squandered on this foolishness. Very sad.

    • markx
      Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 1:06 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Steve has simply detailed the evidence (or, more particularly, the lack of it.

      ‘The glove don’t fit’ would appear to be your conclusion (as it is mine) based on that evidence.

      Your determination to convict anyway would appear to be based on prior-held ingrained beliefs.

      The immediate immediate US/UK/French response would appear to be pre-determined.

      • mpainter
        Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 1:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Steve has detailed discrepancies in reports. That is nothing. U.S. U.K. France response unlikely to be based on such confusion as Steve McIntyre presents here, although Steve would have us believe so.

        • markx
          Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 2:30 PM | Permalink

          ‘Unlikely to be’?

          That’s good.
          So, what was it based on?

          You seem to working on the mistaken assumption your government is only ever on the side of good.

          Jaysh al-Islam, a Salafi/Wahhabi/Sunni group with their stated aim to kill all Shiites and Alawites and to govern Syria under Sharia law are credible allies eh?

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 4:15 PM | Permalink

          Fine, marxy, if you wish to believe that US,UK, French intelligence comes from such blather as this post, then fine. Your measure.

  7. Frank
    Posted May 27, 2018 at 5:32 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve: I’ll agree with you that early, unconfirmed reports from rebel forces contain inaccuracies and could be totally wrong. Which is why we need to hear from someone like OPCW which is qualified to determine whether poison gas was used. The reason OPCW hasn’t reported to us is that Syrian authorities still haven’t provided access to the site. If this attack was faked or mis-represented, the delay imposed by the Syrian government of OPCW has allowed the fake new to remain in the public’s eye for six weeks. One excellent reason for believing that a poison gas attack occurred (presumably chlorine, not sarin) is that Syria has stalled the OPCW (and may even be getting rid of evidence). Common-sense suggests that if Syrian armed forces were innocent, the OPCW would have been rushed to the cited to report the truth.

    In almost any incident, one can find evidence that doesn’t seem to agree with the big picture. If you watch “Why Planes Crash”, you will recognize that conclusions reached on the basis of incomplete evidence are often wrong. IMO, the Syrian government’s failure to make use of the OPCW to counter initial reports provides the best indication that those reports are accurate.

    I’d also like to believe that three the US, UK and France wouldn’t retaliate without good reasons for believing Douma was gassed. Others are more cynical about how these governments behave. History provides good reasons to be cynical, but mistakes get all of the publicity and successes are often forgotten. Do they get it right only 50% of the time or 90%?

    • AntonyIndia
      Posted May 27, 2018 at 10:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Frank, please get your info straight from the source:
      the OPCW arrived 8 days after the “event” on April 14th; they visited Douma twice, on April 24th and April 25th and collected samples.
      https://www.opcw.org/news/article/opcw-fact-finding-mission-visits-second-site-in-douma-syria/

      At most they will say they found Chlorine or Sarin, after they lab check in the Netherlands.
      Reminder, chlorine is also found in your local swimming pool or drinking water, sarin not.

      • AntonyIndia
        Posted May 27, 2018 at 10:24 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Correction, April 21th not 24th. “Security arrangements for the team’s deployment to various locations in Douma were made by the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) in liaison with the Syrian authorities and the Russian Military Police. Due to the security situation the team was only able to visit Douma on 21 April.”

      • Frank
        Posted May 28, 2018 at 5:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

        AnthonyIndia: I got my facts from the Wikipedia article, but misread it (and failed to provide a link). Thank you for correcting my mistake. It did take 1 week to get investigators into Syria and another week before they were allowed to collect samples.

    • Adam Gallon
      Posted May 28, 2018 at 1:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

      The big question is, “Why would Assad do this?”
      He’s winning, Trump said that he was winding down US involvement, so why perform an action, that’s guaranteed to provoke a big, military, response?
      As pointed out by Major General Shaw, on Sky News. Oh boy, was he cut off quickly!

      • mpainter
        Posted May 28, 2018 at 2:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

        This question has previously been addressed.
        For the same reason that his father slaughtered 40,000 citizens of Hama in 1982, after he had put down the rebellion.
        Terror is an effective means of controlling a dissident populace.

  8. EdeF
    Posted May 27, 2018 at 10:47 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Seems to me that Steve has stated the facts as well as can be known by reading and researching various media sources. I fail to see where he is supposed to have been overly siding with one group over another in the conflict. He states that the Syrian forces bombed the disputed area which caused fires and smoke, I assume with also damage to buildings and loss of life.

    • Don Monfort
      Posted May 27, 2018 at 11:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

      But the indiscriminate bombing that has been going on for seven years is only a misdemeanor. Syrian forces would never use gas.

      • Posted May 28, 2018 at 10:40 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Good point Don. Bad actors don’t need to be investigated. Guilt can be assumed. Frame-ups never happen in the real world. Jaish al-Islam social media retweets are as credible as one needs for immediate military retaliation.

  9. Posted May 28, 2018 at 8:33 AM | Permalink | Reply

    UNO WHO unreliable? Never! No UN agencies are ever unreliable. Just look at the IPCC for (shining) example.

  10. Posted May 28, 2018 at 2:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I never thought I would see the day when Russian TV news seemed to me more credible then US or UK.

    • Don Monfort
      Posted May 28, 2018 at 5:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

      dupe

    • markx
      Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 1:20 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Bloody hell Ron. After 23 years of watching CNN and FOX news as the few available English channels in my many, many solitary nights in hotel rooms across Asia, I was always hugely relieved when I could tune into the wide human interest stories from Aljazeera, or the short to the point summaries of RT.

      At least with those channels one could largely filter out the interesting and the factual from the directed propaganda stories.

      However, CNN and FOX invariably served up unadulterated bullsh*t. Even the BBC wasn’t much better.

      It’s not a bad idea to spend a few years outside your country gazing back at the messages and the image it sends overseas.

      • mpainter
        Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 9:56 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Here Marxy touts al jazeera, the mouthpiece of the Al Thani of Qatar, supporters of Iran and Assad. The FBI is conducting a counterintelligence/criminal investigation against Qatari money and influence being laundered into the U.S. via Texas A&M University and the George H W Bush Library located there. A&M has a campus in Qatar, can you believe that? The FBI facilities in Bryan Texas occupy over ten thousand sq ft. It is all part of Bushco. More on this later. Montfort, get f___.

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 3:42 PM | Permalink

          Well, well, it seems that all the DHS goons have taken Sunday off. Or maybe they are pondering their next step. Perhaps Dan Epstein should come to Bryan to clean up their mess. Interesting times.

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 7:18 PM | Permalink

          Interesting times, indeed. All those “not privileged” money laundering transfers, real estate investment advice, administration policy advice, lots of “not privileged” legal work that all those Fortune 500 corporations have got, only to discover “not privileged”. Jeff Bezos will shit a squealing worm. Lots of big boys going to prison, in the biggest sting operation ever. East European Oligarchs, Gulf sheikhs, foreign governments, all will feel the heat. Then there is Bushco and the dems.

        • Don Monfort
          Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 9:06 PM | Permalink

          You still mad at me, old painty? Take valium and at least half a bottle of scotch. Get your mind right, because it ain’t.

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 9:26 PM | Permalink

          Of course the dhs thugs have all kinds of criminal liabilities regarding me dating from the Bush years, with every motivation to avoid those, even to the extent of committing more crimes against me. Already they have issued implied threats, in writing, against me. Death threats. What next, l wonder. because at my age and circumstances nothing frightens me. I wonder how much Trump knows about these lowlife thugs? If he knows what they are up to, goodness, he gets impeached and removed from office. It would serve him right, the lowlife thug.

          A gigantic sting operation against one’s political opponents, hmmm. Imagine what Bezos would do with such a headline.

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 9:31 PM | Permalink

          And of course montforts recipe is also death. Another implied death threat. Not too bright, making such threats publicly. Does Trump approve of this sort of behaviour? Maybe I should post my real name, not for montfort, who has the files on me, but for the record.

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 4, 2018 at 6:53 AM | Permalink

          One thing is certain: There are DHS types who would spend the rest of their lives in prison, if the truth were known about their criminal acts under Bush, as they victimized me for his sake. The whole department would have its reputation blasted. So it is no wonder that these same types, and probably the very same individuals, put their own protection as a priority. John Quinn told me that Cameron Reynolds has criminal liabilities, in his cooperation with the DHS against me. The DHS would never allow the truth of that episode to emerge. So what has John Kelly told Trump about those crimes? Nothing. Kelly will hide all of that, of course.
          So, my first priority: see that Trump and Epstein know the facts about the DHS and their criminal liabilities toward me.

        • Don Monfort
          Posted Jun 4, 2018 at 8:21 AM | Permalink

          I hope you get your issues straightened out, paint. If I have somehow contributed to your distress, I apologize. I think it best that we don’t engage in discussion. Wish you the best. And it is getting weird here, so I am out of this mess. Really, I am gone.

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 5, 2018 at 9:11 PM | Permalink

          Medical authorities condemn the combining of valium with alcohol as a dangerous practice. A half bottle of scotch combined with valium could be deadly.

      • Frank
        Posted Jun 6, 2018 at 8:56 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Painty: Your DHS goons were, for the most part, operating under the authority of legal opinions written by the DoJ’s Office of Legal Council soon after 9/11. No one should go to jail when operating within the constraints of legal opinions issued by DoJ attorneys. (And it extremely difficult to prosecute government attorneys who make “honest” mistakes issuing opinions.)

        In 2004, the much-reviled then-dAG James Comey (and AG Ashcroft) refused to re-certify some of the flawed opinions about surveillance that had been written right after 9/11. Ashcroft was dumped as AG after Bush’s re-election and Gonzales (defender of those flawed opinions) was appointed the new AG. Comey allegedly tried to modify some of the opinions that defined what forms of “enhanced interrogation” were legal (and did not constitute torture), but Gonzales didn’t support his effort.

        When Obama came into office, he ordered an investigation of CIA officials responsible for enhanced interrogation, but no one was indicted.

  11. Frank
    Posted May 28, 2018 at 7:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Fact Finding Mission Reports by OCPW beginning 2015 when Syrian CW stockpiles were being destroyed. Went into moderation with links.

    1) On 5/16/18, “OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Confirms Likely Use of Chlorine in Saraqib, Syria” on 2/4/18

    2) On 6/3-/17, “OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Confirms Use of Chemical Weapons [sarin] in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017”.

    3) 11/6/15, “Syrian Arab Republic [claimed] that its soldiers had sustained casualties from the use of toxic chemicals, an FFM team conducted three deployments to Syria.
    a) in Jobar on 29 August. inconclusive.
    b) 3-5/15 Idlib: death of six people… likely chlorine.
    c) 21 August, Marea, close to Aleppo. high confidence 2 people exposed to sulfur mustard, like one death.

    4) 2/4/15 “high degree of confidence, that chlorine had been used as a weapon in three villages in northern Syria from April to August 2014”.. Talmenes, Al Tamanah, and Kafr Zita.

    OPCW doesn’t assign blame, but only 3) involved complaints from the Syrian government.

  12. EJD
    Posted May 29, 2018 at 9:41 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It is possible, despite what the emotionalists think, to believe in the following concurrently:

    1. Asaad is an evil bastard who kills anyone who gets in his way.
    2. Reports from wars can be inaccurate and/or straight up lies.

    But most humans haven’t gotten past the my tribe/your tribe stage; either you’re for them or against them.

    • Posted May 29, 2018 at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Yes, exactly.

      Additionally, that flippantly removing evil bastards doesn’t guarantee a better outcome. There are plenty more evil bastards waiting to take advantage of the power vacuum to make things even worse.

    • Don Monfort
      Posted May 29, 2018 at 10:42 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Yep, false flag. Because Iraq WMDs. We get it. Can’t trust the Western Democracies. The proper knee-jerk reaction is to poke holes in the narrative of the Western Democracies. Mount a Johnny Cochrane defense of the dictators. Analytic tweeters are berry smart.

      • EJD
        Posted May 29, 2018 at 11:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

        I’m pretty sure the knee-jerk reaction is to emotionally react to anything counter to one’s own beliefs.

        But that’s just me.

        • Don Monfort
          Posted May 29, 2018 at 11:36 AM | Permalink

          That’s what I said. Use your head.

      • markx
        Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 1:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Not too difficult to poke holes in this particular Western narrative Don.

        • Don Monfort
          Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

          It’s not difficult to poke a few little holes in any narrative, markxist. Tons of shyster lawyers make a living at it. They even win a case now and then, if they manage to sow enough confusion. It coulda been the Columbians. One of dem probly dropped the glub.

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 4:20 PM | Permalink

          Indeed, it’s easy to sow confusion when you have Assad, Putin, & Co. helping you. Steve McIntyre takes full advantage of that.

  13. Don Monfort
    Posted May 29, 2018 at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Reply

    But Assad wouldn’t do it. He would be in such trouble. Yet the major Western Democracies have concluded on several occasions that he did do it and he is still ensconced in power, living quite comfortably in his palaces and winning. There were some holes punched in some of his runways and a few buildings were taken out in the middle of the night so no one would get hurt, but Assad has suffered no strategic or even tactical setback. He just keeps ruthlessly clearing out pockets of resistance. But let’s be fair and give him the benefit of the doubt, because Iraq WMDs.

  14. mpainter
    Posted May 29, 2018 at 2:09 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Did/would Assad ever use chemical weapons against rebellious populace?

    Time to declare yourselves. Those who claim that Bashar Assad _has_never_ used chemical weapons against his rebellious compatriots please append your name to this comment. Thanks in advance for expressing your opinion.

    • Posted May 29, 2018 at 11:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I think we did a version of this argument before. I hear everyone stipulate that Assad is a ruthless dictator that has used WMD on his own people to stay in power and would not hesitate to do it again save the threat of US intervention.

      What I see being missed is that when everyone knows someone is guilty there is a very low moral threshold of evidence needed to further convict. There are always those who have motive to “help” along the cause of justice with planted evidence. We should do everything possible not to allow the legitimacy of the justice of US government action to be compromised by those eager to manipulate it for any other cause, no matter how righteous.

      • Don Monfort
        Posted May 30, 2018 at 3:26 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Yeah, we are missing the false flag angle. Uh, planted evidence. If the glove don’t fit…. Thanks, Ron.

    • mpainter
      Posted May 31, 2018 at 4:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Two days have passed and no one has accepted my above invitation to deny that Bashar Assad has ever used chemical weapons in Syria. Where are the Assad supporters?

      • Don Monfort
        Posted May 31, 2018 at 6:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

        It seems that most of those still here and commenting think it’s the rebels. The rebels are repeatedly doing it to themselves, because they think the Western Democracies will drop the sledge hammer on Assad. But they only drop little kid sized ball peen hammers.
        Those wascally webels will never learn.

        • mpainter
          Posted May 31, 2018 at 7:42 PM | Permalink

          Yet none are ready to deny that Assad ever used chemical weapons against the rebel populace.

      • markx
        Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 1:46 PM | Permalink | Reply

        mpainter, I honestly don’t know.

        The only ‘concrete’ evidence I have read in any depth on regime chemical weapons attacks is from this particular case, and to a lesser extent, the Khan Shaykun case.

        And both appeared suspect to me.

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 3:01 AM | Permalink

          Markx: There is much more concrete evidence for the use of poison gas in Syria.

          Above, I listed four reports from the OPCW since 2015 covering more than four incidents and confirming the use of poison gas. The OPCW doesn’t assign blame, but you can infer that the complaints the three of the four reports the OPCW investigated originated with rebel complaints. The report covering complaints initiated by the government involved only a small number of victims. (If one wants to speculate about false-flag operations, it makes more sense to speculate about those involving fewer victims.)

          https://climateaudit.org/2018/05/25/who-on-douma/#comment-781854

          Wikipedia has a list of several DOZEN incidents including the period before the [partial?] destruction of Syria stockpiles of poison gas and before the OPCW process provided more definitive information. There shouldn’t be any doubt that a significant number of poison gas attacks have occurred and that most of them have occurred in rebel-controlled territory. Steve can debate the merits of the evidence for any one of these attacks before the OPCW or others provide “professional” investigations, but BIG PICTURE appears to be clear. (Of course, more than a decade ago, I might have said the same thing about the MWP.)

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 12:52 PM | Permalink

          Over seventy incidents involving chemical weapons have been recorded during the civil war.

        • Don Monfort
          Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 3:22 PM | Permalink

          It’s the rebels doing it to themselves. They love the smell of Sarin, in the morning.

        • markx
          Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 7:22 PM | Permalink

          Thanks Frank.

          On the basis of that I’d agree that Assad very likely has used chemical weapons against rebels.

          But I think all evidence points to it being most likely this particular case was faked.

          That’s important due to it being a ‘red line crossing’ trigger.

          But I also ponder the logic of accepting high explosive trauma, concussion, explosive trauma, high speed projectile trauma, sufgocation, being buried under rubble, burning as somehow being comparatively acceptable … from either side.

          For some reason, causes are carefully chosen and worse cases in other parts of the world blatantly ignored. And the chosen causes recently all happen to be independent, oil producing middle eastern countries.

          There are a lot of people lying to us, and their ‘honorable causes’ are a bloody cynical charade.

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 5, 2018 at 5:23 AM | Permalink

          Markx wrote: “On the basis of that I’d agree that Assad very likely has used chemical weapons against rebels. But I think all evidence points to it being most likely this particular case was faked. That’s important due to it being a ‘red line crossing’ trigger.”

          Given the absence of any definitive evidence and the likelihood of getting reliable evidence from the OPCW, I’m not sure why you (and Steve) would choose this moment to claim this CW attack was faked. If we are dealing with responding to the crossing a red line, then I expect the responding government to have intelligence that may not have been released to the public.

          Markx wrote: “But I also ponder the logic of accepting high explosive trauma, concussion, explosive trauma, high speed projectile trauma, sufgocation, being buried under rubble, burning as somehow being comparatively acceptable … from either side.”

          I see. The war crime was faked – but if it wasn’t faked, perhaps we should considered other things to be a war crimes, so Assad doesn’t appear to be the bad guy he really is! Poor reasoning. Find one rational you really believe in.

          Markx wrote: “For some reason, causes are carefully chosen and worse cases in other parts of the world blatantly ignored. And the chosen causes recently all happen to be independent, oil producing middle eastern countries.”

          There was no oil in the former Yugoslavia when the West used limited military power to force peaceful change there. Afghanistan has negligible natural resources and we’ve been involved there for 17 years. Neither did Vietnam. I’m not aware that Iraqi oil has benefitted the US in any way. Yes, some places to get more attention than others, but the motives are not as simple as you suggest.

          Markx wrote: “There are a lot of people lying to us, and their ‘honorable causes’ are a bloody cynical charade.”

          As best I can tell, there was an “honorable cause” in Syria: The initial demonstrations and rebellion lead in part by deserters from the Assad military. Assad and the Russian want us to forget the origin of the conflict. After about two years (with little effective support from the West), foreign radicals came to Syria and mistakes in Iraq rekindled Al Qaeda in Iraq as ISIS. After a few years of AQI in Iraq, there was an Arab Awakening that helped defeat the religious extremists there. A future Syria without Assad doesn’t have to be dominated by extremists, though the though is scary. I think the fear of Shia dominance from Iran to Lebanon is likely to prevent any peace settlement with Assad remaining in power. Syria is predominantly Sunni and I can’t picture the Saudis, Israel, or the US abandoning their allies inside Syria. (I could easily be wrong about this.)

          I’m also unable to come up with any precedents for a rebellion (originally popular) going on for more than five years and then being suppressed. Any precedents?

      • mpainter
        Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 4:26 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Three days now.

        • markx
          Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 7:25 PM | Permalink

          On the basis of that logic, you’d better also list up some proof that the US/UK have never blatantly lied to the world before.

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 8:13 AM | Permalink

          Five days and none step up to deny that Assad has used chemical weapons against rebellious populace. Not even Steve McIntyre. So what are to conclude about all the smoke and confusion that is being generated over the Douma incident?

          We can conclude that Assad likely did it again, but confusion on this issue provides an opportunity to suggest inferences that Assad would never do such a thing.

          The real issue is the motivation of people who try to build a case that Assad is innocent of any accusations of using chemical weapons.

        • markx
          Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 6:43 PM | Permalink

          There’s a discussion going on here.
          Yet mpainter has calmly walked off over there, and decided to discuss something else, laying down his own rules.

          The lack of a response is apparently enough to convince him he is on some sort of a win.

  15. Posted May 31, 2018 at 3:37 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “..Douma medical staff stated unequivocally that the hospital had NOT been subjected to a chemical attack and that none of their patients on April 7 had demonstrated symptoms of a chemical attack…”

    But..DonCNNTOLDMEMontfort says different so it must be #fakenews.
    Does Don who writes like a Salafaist/Cia troll employee go on holidays or just live here to amuse us 🙂

  16. Don Monfort
    Posted May 31, 2018 at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Reply

    comments keep going into moderation. Maybe it’s the link:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43912739

    • Don Monfort
      Posted May 31, 2018 at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Not the link. I’ll try some more:

      “Four doctors and medical staff working in Douma that day told the BBC over several interviews that they treated patients with symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine and possibly nerve agents.”

      • Don Monfort
        Posted May 31, 2018 at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Reply

        OK, then. But you prefer to believe the captive witnesses of the accused dictators.

        • Don Monfort
          Posted May 31, 2018 at 10:53 AM | Permalink

          Pathetic.

    • markx
      Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 1:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

      The BBC report linked simply repeats comments from White Helmets and SAMS.

      The only direct quote from a medico (from one of the BBC links in Don’s linked story) is this one:

      A medical student working at a hospital told the BBC he had treated a man who died. “His pupils were dilated and he had foam in his mouth. His heart was very slow. Then he coughed blood into his mouth as well,” he said.

      Where he’d perhaps appear to have compounded different ‘typical symptoms’ into one case. (Foam, slow heartbeat from Sarin symptoms, but no pinpoint pupils).

  17. Don Monfort
    Posted Jun 1, 2018 at 4:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

    markxist: Where he’d perhaps appear to have blah blah blah. WTF are you going on about? You see the quote and you make up crap to try to deconstruct it to suit your purposes. Typical cheap shyster BS.

    You are a disingenuous little rascal. If you want transcripts of all the interviews, ask the BBC:

    “Four doctors and medical staff working in Douma that day told the BBC over several interviews that they treated patients with symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine and possibly nerve agents.”

    • markx
      Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 5:11 AM | Permalink | Reply

      People exposed to a low or moderate dose of sarin by breathing contaminated air, eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, or touching contaminated surfaces may experience some or all of the following symptoms within seconds to hours of exposure:

      Runny nose
      Watery eyes
      Small, pinpoint pupils
      Eye pain
      Blurred vision
      Drooling and excessive sweating
      Cough
      Chest tightness
      Rapid breathing
      Diarrhea
      Nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain
      Increased urination
      Confusion
      Drowsiness
      Weakness
      Headache
      Slow or fast heart rate
      Low or high blood pressure

      https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/sarin/basics/facts.asp

    • markx
      Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 5:15 AM | Permalink | Reply

      What are the signs and symptoms of shock?

      rapid, weak, or absent pulse.
      irregular heart beat.
      rapid, shallow breathing.
      lightheadedness.
      cool, clammy skin.
      dilated pupils.
      lackluster eyes.
      chest pain.

      https://www.healthline.com/symptom/shock

      • Don Monfort
        Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 8:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

        I suppose the Johnny Cochrane shyster type of confusion you are trying to sow is that the med student said the patient that died had dilated pupils, but the symptom description that you presented says pinpoint pupils. Did you know that people who have suffered from any of variety of traumas could very well have dilated pupils, before their heart beat and breathing stop and almost certainly after apparent death? There is nothing inconsistent in what the med student described. If there was any inconsistency, he was a student in a tough situation. But you prefer to believe the dictators who are causing the carnage. You are a piece of work.

    • markx
      Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 5:20 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I went looking for direct quotes from the “four doctors and medical personnel who gave phone interviews” and the medical student mentioned above was the only one I could find.

      This also leads me to wonder how the hell do the BBC know who they are really talking to on the end of a phoneline in Syria ?

      • Don Monfort
        Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 9:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

        They do some checking and they talked them multiple times. But you prefer to go with the dictators’ dog and pony show. Pathetic.

  18. Don Monfort
    Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 12:12 AM | Permalink | Reply

    This is really terrible:

    Steve:”Subsequent to the Douma incident, medical staff from the Douma hospital (and even one of the children in the hospital videos) have publicly stated that there was no chemical attack on the hospital and that none of the children at the hospital had symptoms of a chemical attack. (This is not to say that the hospitals were not busy with patients, as Douma was heavily bombed during April 7, leading to massive fires with victims suffering from both smoke inhalation and suffocation.) The evidence from Douma doctors has been mostly disregarded in western media on the grounds that they have been coerced or intimidated by Russia and/or the Syrian government.”

    Last paragraph of Steve’s brilliant closing argument. Even one of the children publicly stated that…but he doesn’t quote what was stated and the BBC reports less conclusive testimony (see link below). But that’s how shysters operate. Now what would you expect witnesses in the custody of the Russkis and Assad to say, when put on stage by their captors:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43912739

    And it is a lie that the evidence from Douma doctors has been mostly disregarded by western media. They have just mostly disregarded the assertions of doctors controlled by the Russkis and Assad.

    “Four doctors and medical staff working in Douma that day told the BBC over several interviews that they treated patients with symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine and possibly nerve agents.”

  19. Don Monfort
    Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 12:19 AM | Permalink | Reply

    PS: The BBC did not disregard, but reported what the Russki-Assad captive witnesses said:

    “Russian officials produced an 11-year-old boy, Hassan Diab, who was filmed by activists from the White Helmets organisation at a hospital in Douma in the aftermath of the attack.

    Alongside his father, Diab said that he had heard cries of an attack and run to the hospital, where he was doused with water. His father said he did not believe there was a chemical attack.

    Russia also produced a worker who said he was in the hospital that day, and an emergency doctor, who both said the symptoms seen in patients that day were caused by smoke and dust from ordinary bombing.”

    It’s all documented on video, if you want to watch a sickening KGB dog and pony show.

    • Frank
      Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 4:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Don and others: It is very likely that both sides are producing a great deal of propaganda or fake news, mixed in with some things that are true. If you and others here only believe what is consistent your existing understanding of how the world works – confirmation bias – then you and they will not be incapable of learning anything new! That is true for the Assad government (where Don and I agree) and Libby (where we don’t). Thus I recently quoted Dreger: to find justice you first need to know what is true. Increasing partisanship, spin, fake news and propaganda is making finding the truth more difficult all of the time. Every day those you already control your opinions are unconsciously or deliberately reinforcing this hold on your mind. MSNBC, CNN, Fox, or Al Jazeeria want to keep and expand their current audience, so they aren’t going to offend them with uncomfortable facts, they will entertain them with “red meat”. Slightly different dynamics are at work at RT, the BBC and PBS. Arguing about the narrow stories carried by each of these biased sources won’t resolve the debate.

      In the case of Syria, the bulk of the OPCW reports and earlier incidents listed by Wikipedia show that poison gas has been used rebel-controlled territory many times. The fact that sophisticated sarin and sulfur mustards have been used, which aren’t easy to acquire and require training to use, strongly suggests they were used by the Assad government. We can’t rule out that the rebels have faked some incidents or used chlorine in a false flag operation. Speculating before the OPCW about Douma is a waste of time.

      • Follow the Money
        Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 5:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Every alleged regime chemical weapon attack has not been coordinated for, or evidence of a cogent battlefield strategy. Every one of them has been coordinated to elicit an American response.

        Every single “report” that finds traces of “chlorine” to be evidence of a “chemical weapon” is not worth anything.

        All the “Chemical weapon” injury videos are laughably bad and evidence of percussion injuries when real.

        “Syriawood” has not figured out how to construct the war movie set of the widespread damage from an air-dispersed chemical weapon that any one smarter than an American media person or spy could believe.

        It’s all fake.

        • Don Monfort
          Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 9:13 PM | Permalink

          Look at this clown:”Every alleged regime chemical weapon attack has not been coordinated for, or evidence of a cogent battlefield strategy. Every one of them has been coordinated to elicit an American response.”

          That assertion is purely your subjective and quite stoopid interpretation. The stratgey is to clean out the rebels and it is working very well. See Douma, most recently.

          I wonder why you people choose to twist yourselves into knots to defend ruthless dictators.

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 2:06 AM | Permalink

          Follow the Money wrote: Every alleged regime chemical weapon attack has not been coordinated for, or evidence of a cogent battlefield strategy. Every one of them has been coordinated to elicit an American response.

          Of course the victims of chemical weapons attacks are coordinating (and exaggerating) the evidence of attacks. Wouldn’t you do so, if you had been attacked with poison gas? The last response came from America, the UK and France – so you are assuming that three different intelligence services and governments have been fooled.

          There is a logical battlefield strategy. Urban warfare is the toughest kind of battle their is. Think about Second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq or the Battle of Hue in Vietnam, for example. In Fallujah, about 10,000 US Marines (far more effective than troops fighting for Assad, suffered 100 killed and 500 wounded, killing about 2,000 insurgents and driving another 2,000 out of the city. In Syria, the insurgents have held all or part of major cities for many years, because Assad doesn’t have the forces willing and able to fight under such difficult circumstances. IMO, the purpose of the poison gas attacks has been to break the resistance of the rebels and their civilian supporters in these urban areas.

      • Don Monfort
        Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 2:29 AM | Permalink | Reply

        That clown wouldn’t know battlefield strategy from Shinola. These bogus Johnny Cochrane defenses of the Assad-Putin-Ayatollah axis of evil are obscene and shameful. Why do they do it?

  20. Don Monfort
    Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 12:35 AM | Permalink | Reply

    This is even worse BS:

    Steve:”One victim, after reaching the open street, unaccountably placed himself on a stretcher and covered himself with a blanket.”

    What is that about? Is there video of the dead guy placing himself on a stretcher? Where does Steve get this BS? Pathetic.

    • Follow the Money
      Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 3:40 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Don,

      It’s called “Pallywood.” This is the Syrian version.

      Believing the Syrian version of Pallywood is just as wrong as believing the Hamas-Fatah versions, or any other.

      One big difference is the Syrians often have the real dead bodies of children, while the original Pallywood (see also Hezbollah in Lebanon) rely on very accurate dolls and people faking being injured.

      Another difference is Syrian Pallywood is oriented to attracting American attacks under the erroneous but understandable impression by the example of Iraq that “chemical weapons” are what trigger American military responses. Syrian Pallywood is not so much aimed at other Arab audiences, who see through Pallywood way better than Westerners apparently.

  21. Don Monfort
    Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 12:37 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve has either always been a charlatan and fooled a lot of people, or he has recently lost his mind. But I guess both are possible.

  22. Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 4:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Don Monfort, mpainter: I hope you will keep on commenting here. Your consistently fact-free ad hominem assertions provide effective – and very welcome – support for the objectivity of Steve’s factual investigations. Keep up the good work!

    • mpainter
      Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 5:18 PM | Permalink | Reply

      If you have facts, please share them with us. But please, no more sneers.

      • markx
        Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 6:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

        mpainter, you and Don do take an interesting approach to the ‘debate’.

        The point of it all is, one side or the other is blatantly lying about what happened at Douma.

        The evidence put forward here that it may be the US/UK side doing the lying includes all the matters detailed in Steve’s two articles.

        The evidence that it might be the Syrian/Russian side doing the lying is simply your and Don’s belief that “the US/UK wouldn’t lie, and they must know what they are doing and must have secret intelligence information.”

        I think we can all agree that both sides have an extensive history of lying, operating on flawed intelligence, and not knowing what they are doing.

        We’ll all draw our own conclusions.

        • mpainter
          Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 8:39 PM | Permalink

          You are a troll.

        • Don Monfort
          Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 9:16 PM | Permalink

          lie:”“the US/UK wouldn’t lie, and they must know what they are doing and must have secret intelligence information.”

        • Don Monfort
          Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 9:22 PM | Permalink

          It looks like Steve is down to about 4-5 sycophants, who are not disappointed by his detour into this foolishness.

        • Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 9:41 PM | Permalink

          The likelihood that Assad has used chemical weapons is high. That any subsequent claim must be true however is invalid logic. It ignores both that Assad has adversaries and their sympathizers have strong motive as well as a very low ethical bar prohibiting the framing of Assad for a crime virtually all agree he committed on multiple occasions and but never got adjudicated.

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 1:45 AM | Permalink

          Markx wrote: “The point of it all is, one side or the other is blatantly lying about what happened at Douma.”

          No, most likely, both sides are lying: The rebels are exaggerating the inhumanity of the government and the government – which took control of the area – is hiding the dead and coercing locals to minimize what happened. And you should ignore both; because the most outrageous claims are the ones that are picked up by the media. Count the dead and wait for experts in chemical warfare (not ordinary doctors) to establish the cause of death. Wait for chemical samples from near the gas cylinders (plus a variety of control samples) to be analyzed at multiple laboratories around the world without those labs knowing which are the “real samples” and which are the controls. Then you will know if a significant number of people died from poison gas.

        • markx
          Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 5:02 AM | Permalink

          Fair enough, Frank.

          I’d like to point out that the US/UK know that’s the only way to prove it, yet they were determined to respond immediately: they actually don’t care whether it’s factual or not, the response was predetermined and looking for an excuse.

          Further, detection of chemical weapons does not automatically assign guilt to Assad’s side: those who’d stage chemical attacks may just as easily plant chemicals as ‘evidence’.

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 5, 2018 at 5:50 AM | Permalink

          Markx wrote: “I’d like to point out that the US/UK know that’s the only way to prove it, yet they were determined to respond immediately: they actually don’t care whether it’s factual or not, the response was predetermined and looking for an excuse.”

          I’d like to point out that Western governments have non-public intelligence that they may consider as reliable as that produced by OPCW. Of course, we don’t know what our governments know, so it is impossible for us to draw conclusions based on that evidence. I hope our governments are getting it right. If the West was looking for excuses to attack, then those attacks would be much more damaging to the Syrian government. The modest responses made so far reek of feeling forced to retaliate.

          Markx wrote: Further, detection of chemical weapons does not automatically assign guilt to Assad’s side: those who’d stage chemical attacks may just as easily plant chemicals as ‘evidence’.

          We can use some common sense. Sarin and mustard gases are not easily available, require sophistication to manufacture, and training to use. They are been launched or dropped into rebel-held territory. The odds are excellent that Assad is responsible. The rebels certainly could stage a chlorine gas attack and make it look like it was done by Assad. Chlorine caused the last resistance in Douma to collapse and such attacks have been extremely effective elsewhere. If I were staging an attack, I wouldn’t do it in critical areas and panic my own supporters.

          One of the OPCW reports had characteristics I might associate with a fake attack: two Syrian soldiers were exposed to chlorine and survived; one baby allegedly died of exposure, but was not examined.

      • markx
        Posted Jun 7, 2018 at 3:39 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Frank: “both sides are lying”
        True enough, but in relation to the matter under discussion there is a binary truth: either the Syrian army/state did this, or it did not. In the latter case it is the rebels/west doing the lying.

        Frank: “If the West was looking for excuses to attack..” Politically, with all the “red line’ talk, this is probably just an easy political decision, any acceptance of an alternative dialogue would look like weakness to most supporters. It’s easier to just pull the trigger.

        Frank: “Sarin and mustard gases are not easily available, require sophistication to manufacture, and training to use”. No doubt true in the first two points. For point three, how much sophistication and trainingis required to set a small charge on a sealed container and to detonate it remotely?

        Frank: “The rebels certainly could stage a chlorine gas attack..” If this was faked, I’d guess a chlorine attack on a basement would have been the simplest (and most coldblooded) way to ensure a family of casualties. Or it may be as simple as planting of containers near casualties of other munitions.

        Frank: “If I were staging an attack, I wouldn’t do it in critical areas and panic my own supporters..” One day before you announce you are departing the area, it was probably not an issue. And the affected and their neighbours may not have been supporters.

        I’m not sure we will ever know the truth either way, but I’m pretty sure someone will come up with a story which will be largely accepted as the truth.

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 8, 2018 at 9:29 PM | Permalink

          Marks wrote: “I’m not sure we will ever know the truth either way …”

          I think we have a pretty fair idea about the big picture. In 2013, the Syrian government used sarin against about a half dozen rebel-controlled urban areas, killing on the order of a thousand people, mostly non-combatants. Sarin contains impurities characteristic of its manufacturing process, allowing investigators to establish that it came from government stockpiles.

          After Syria supposedly destroyed all of its stockpiles of chemical weapons, there has been another round of attacks unambiguously attributed to poison gas. The circumstance again strongly suggest the Syrian government was responsible.

          I’m not sure why this doesn’t disqualify Assad – in your mind – as a potential leader of Syria after a negotiated peace. Logically, someday he should be tried for war crimes by the ICC.

          We know that poison gas was probably not used in many other attacks where rebels (and the government, in a few cases) claimed the opposite. We don’t know how many if any of these incidents were deliberately faked without using poison gas. We don’t know if chlorine was ever released by the rebels.

          When Steve and others look very closely at the evidence in a few cases, there are plenty of questions: Is this a “tree” or not? But when you step back and look at the whole forest, you should have a fairly good idea that you are looking at a forest. However, I’m the American raised on biased Western media. Do you really think the Syrian government hasn’t committed a significant number of war crimes?

        • markx
          Posted Jun 9, 2018 at 7:23 AM | Permalink

          And do you really think the rebel forces haven’t committed a significant number of war crimes?

          For that matter, how many have the US and allies committed or been a party to over the recent decades?

          So many questions, eh? How do we ignore (or even support) an Idi Amin, ignore Rawanda massacres, ignore Pol Pot in Cambodia, ignore the Palestinian displacements, fight illegal wars in places like Laos, Vietnam, manipulate governments…. etc?

          Usually with chaotic results.
          Yet we feel qualified to displace a dictator here and there with no plans for the future, and an almost certain slide into chaos and sectarian fighting in the case of ‘victory’.

          A combination of pragmatism and compassion favouring stability would seem to be a better path than the conniving, lies, propaganda and false flag operations we seem to prefer.

          I’ve developed a theory that the US economy has an inbuilt need to have perpetual, low grade wars and fake causes ticking over somewhere in the world at all times, and there are now enough involved parties at all levels of government, industry and military to keep this automatically ticking over without an overall stated plan.

          Now, I could be wrong on that, but I am damned sure it’s not being done for the sake of the Syrian people.

        • markx
          Posted Jun 9, 2018 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

          More war crimes for you …. better we get in and fix this one too, eh?

          https://newsclick.in/butterfly-bullets-are-yet-another-dark-chapter-israels-war-crimes

          Over 20 Palestinians in Gaza have had their legs amputated since the beginning of the Great Return March due to Israel’s illegal use of the lethal ‘butterfly bullets.’ There have been at least three deaths stemming from injuries caused by these bullets. Many others have also suffered severe internal injuries.

          In each of these cases, the protesters were hit by a single ‘explosive bullet.’ Two journalists who died, Yaser Murtaja and Ahmad Abu Hussein, were shot in the abdomen. 15-year-old Mohammed Ayoub, also lost his life to these lethal bullets. Shocking footage shows him running with other children a few moments before being shot in the head.

          The butterfly bullets expand on impact, causing severe damage to internal tissue, arteries, veins, and even bones, increasing the size of the wound. Blood loss from the wounds is higher and often, the victims suffer severe organ damage. Thebullets are prohibited by the Hague Declaration of 1899. Their use is also a war crime as per a statute of the International Criminal Court because of the “unnecessary injury and suffering caused from large bullet wounds.”

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 10, 2018 at 7:47 PM | Permalink

          Frank asked Markx how he could possibly find Assad an acceptable leader after the Syrian government’s many verified sarin and other poison gas attacks on urban areas where civilians were certain to be killed. Instead of defending Assad, Markx replied: “And do you really think the rebel forces haven’t committed a significant number of war crimes?

          Yes, but no one [in the West] is proposing that a war criminal like Assad be the leader of Syria after a peace conference in ends the civil war.

          Markx continued: “For that matter, how many have the US and allies committed or been a party to over the recent decades?”

          How about a few specific examples – ones that are as unambiguous as outrageous as Assad’s?

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 10, 2018 at 8:07 PM | Permalink

          Markx: Do you really believe this propaganda about Israel using illegal “butterfly” bullets?

          Do you really think that a government that initially defends themselves against demonstrators using non-lethal means (water cannon, tear gas, rubber bullets) is going to be using a banned type of bullets against demonstrators when it needs to use lethal force? A government that tolerates the activities of an organization like “Break the Silence”, which publicizes confessions of war crimes by their soldiers? (It is possible that some Israeli soldiers used such bullets without authorization.)

          Everyone in Gaza knows that the Israelis shot at armed Palestinians within 300 meters of the border fence and anyone within 100 meters. If the fence were overwhelmed by demonstrators, many more would die crossing into Israeli territory. We both know that more than 100 Palestinians are dead and thousands are injured because the leaders in Gaza chose to express their displeasure at the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem. It was, of course, an insanely stupid move on Trump’s part, guaranteed to bring violence that would end any hope of this administration being taken seriously in discussing possible peace scenarios.

        • AntonyIndia
          Posted Jun 10, 2018 at 8:58 PM | Permalink

          Examples of outrageous US acts: you could start close by with Raqqa https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-coalition-raqqa-isis-civilian-deaths-amnesty-international-report-uk-france-a8383416.html and move on to the CIA assistance to Saddam Hussein in gassing many thousands Iranians http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/08/26/exclusive-cia-files-prove-america-helped-saddam-as-he-gassed-iran/

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 11, 2018 at 2:55 AM | Permalink

          AnthonyIndia wrote about: “CIA assistance to Saddam Hussein in gassing many thousands Iranians”

          … which is a complete lie. The sensationalized title of the article claims “CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran” is grossly misleading – if you read the article. Yes, the US provided satellite intelligence to Saddam’s military. That assistance came at a time when we knew Iraq and Iran were both using poison gases on the battlefield.

          The outrageous acts in Raqqa were mostly performed by ISIS, who shot civilians trying to escape the city, disguised themselves as civilians attempting to escape, deliberately located their headquarters and artillery in places like hospitals, used civilians as shields, booby traps, snipers, etc. All of these actions were designed to promote the civilian casualties and destruction that Amnesty International is now complaining about. Everywhere the US Army goes, it is accompanied by rules of engagement and inspectors charged with seeing that the rules are followed. Raqqa was urban warfare at its worst – except for Syrian attacks with completely indiscriminant poison gas, of course. For a view of the fighting itself – not the scene after the fighting see:
          https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/the_city_fit_for_no_one_raqqa_syria_islamic_state_group

          If you have a better solution to the problem of evicting ISIS from cities, let us know.

        • markx
          Posted Jun 12, 2018 at 6:51 AM | Permalink

          Replacing Assad? I don’t know what can work now.
          However, before the west ‘helped’ after Assad supposedly jailed 10,000 (no proof of that) and suppressed protests, about 400,000 now dead Syrians were still alive, and 10 million Syrians who are now displaced were living in what are now destroyed homes.

          Omar Lababidi, claiming to be a Syrian who has fled the chaos, states in the earlier thread that in spite of his dislike of Assad, he (and likely most others) would prefer peace with Assad than an uncertain victory by unknown forces at any cost.

          War crimes by the US? You can find great lists of them online, some are justifiably labelled so, some perhaps not. But almost any of the CIA backed coups of Latin America which were largely triggered to stop leaders from taking land owned by Amercian corporations, and granting it to their own citizens, would certainly qualify. As would the illegal bombing and military activities in Laos and Cambodia. Don’t forget the Vietnam war (or the American war, as they so aptly label it) was triggered by US backed support of a puppet regime and cancellation of agreed nation wide elections that they knew Ho Chi Minh would win.

          Pretty good starting list is here: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-war-crimes-of-USA-and-NATO

        • markx
          Posted Jun 12, 2018 at 1:01 PM | Permalink

          And on Israel, propaganda, butterfly bullets and ‘shoot to kill’:

          Why would they do that?
          You know the answer apparently: to terrorise. One death on their side, or even a threat of death, is met with thousands of deaths on the other.

          Their plans for Gaza and the West Bank do not include giving any land back to the dispossessed.

          And this is perhaps the example which best shows the blind double standards of the West, and how poorly we can see another man’s truth.

          It takes great effort to stand back and gaze at the faults and sins of your own country through another man’s eyes.

        • Posted Jun 12, 2018 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

          Yeah, that Israel, 70 years of always attacking its neighbors out of the blue sky. The never welcome immigrants and have a dangerously unstable and authortarian government that oppresses and terrorizes its citizens. Or am I thinking of some place else?

        • markx
          Posted Jun 15, 2018 at 6:52 AM | Permalink

          Yes Ron. To you they’re the ‘good guys’, so what they do cannot be wrong.

          But, death is death, murder is murder, oppression is oppression … even if you think it’s done by the good.

          One day you may perhaps be able to stand back and see it as others do, but you probably won’t.

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 15, 2018 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

          Markx includes among American war crimes: “Vietnam war (or the American war, as they so aptly label it) was triggered by US backed support of a puppet regime and cancellation of agreed nation wide elections that they knew Ho Chi Minh would win.”

          I’m sorry to say, your ignorance and that of your sources is appalling. I’ll cite some example separately. As I quoted to Don on another thread (when discussing the guilt of Libby), “to find justice you first need to know what is true”. I’ve commented at this blog because it seemed to be a place where people cared about the truth about climate science. It is perfectly sensible for different people to come to different opinions about the same set of facts, but it is hopeless when one party or the other continuously spouts things that aren’t true. If one particular historical event or another is important to your anti-Western worldview, do a little research. Otherwise, the only thing you can learn are things that confirm your current beliefs: aka confirmation bias. The West has made a lot of mistakes, but been falsely accused of many more. Others are taken out of context or distorted.

          Above, I asked why the Israelis would use “butterfly bullets” in Gaza. You said they wanted to terrorize the people of Gaza. Do you really think the people of Gaza are more terrorized by butterfly bullets than ordinary bullets? Imagine you are a demonstrator and the person besides you is wounded? Are you going to flee or not depending on the nature of the wound? I’ll say it again, the Israelis had nothing to gain by using illegal bullets, so this is likely false propaganda. One exception might be snipers attempting to eliminate key leaders of terrorist groups

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 17, 2018 at 1:48 AM | Permalink

          Markx: Some of your appalling myths:

          The US and the fully independent Republic of Vietnam never signed the Geneva Accords and were under no obligation to hold elections in 1956. (The US endorsed elections supervised by the UN, but the Communists had no intention of permitting fair elections as we understand them.) The Accords permitted Vietnamese to move between North and South – an absurd provision, if the negotiators truly believed that the partition of Vietnam would be temporary. Elections and reunification were face-saving fairy tales that permitted a cease-fire long enough to allow French troops to leave without deserting their Vietnamese allies.

          One million Northerns (out of 15 million) fled Ho’s popular government for the South. Many religious Catholics and Buddhists were grateful for their independence from France, but did not want to live in a Communist state. Two million left after Saigon fell.

          The official North Vietnamese military history of the war (“Victory in Vietnam”) should have ended the myth that renewed hostilities began as a civil war inside South Vietnam. In March 1959, the NV politburo ordered Viet Minh units that had remained in the South to begin an uprising and ordered the construction (and occupation) of the Ho Chi Minh trail. The Viet Minh and Viet Cong were an integral part of the North Vietnamese army and took orders from Hanoi. In the end, the abandoned South Vietnamese were overwhelmed by NVA tanks and regulars supplied over a Ho Chi Minh “trail” paved with asphalt and a pipeline carrying fuel.

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 17, 2018 at 2:51 AM | Permalink

          More on Markx’s myths:

          Diem was respected Vietnamese patriot who had been asked to join Ho’s 1945 government and various French puppet governments, but refused. He was chosen to be Prime Minister of the newly independent Republic of Vietnam because he wasn’t a French collaborator, like most of the army and police. Nevertheless, he won their trust and dispersed the military forces of two religious sects and an organized crime syndicate that controlled about 1/3 of the south under the French. Though his government (but not Diem personally) was corrupt, cruel and inefficient by Western standards, it was arguably better than South Korea (under Rhee), North Korea, or anywhere else in Indochina – certainly until Ho began his war to conquer the South. Diem’s record won massive American support until he mishandled Buddhist activists in 1963. If he had been a US puppet, the US would have prevented some of Diem’s mistakes and never condoned his overthrow.

          The American bombing of North Vietnam never took out the Red River dikes (which were essential to rice production) or indiscriminately targeted the civilian population of Hanoi or Haiphong. The bombing of Laos and Cambodia was not a war crime, but it was an ACT of war against those countries (and possibly unconstitutional over-reach by the president.) However, the occupation of parts of Laos and Cambodia by the North Vietnamese was the first act of war against these countries and they were too weak to complain about either aggressor. The Cambodian army overthrew Prince Sihanouk in 1970 and attempted to drive out the hated North Vietnamese occupiers. The US had already begun withdrawal and wasn’t in a position to offer much assistance. Communists linked to China (the Kymer Rouge) drove out military government in 1975 and killed two million Cambodians.

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 17, 2018 at 3:03 AM | Permalink

          More Markx myths: According to Congressional investigation, the US government played no active role in the overthrow of Allende in 1973. Both the Chilean Supreme Court and Congress had seriously complained about the actions of the socialist Allende government, but not legally forced it to resign when the coup took place.

          The US did try to conspire to prevent Allende from taking office after winning a 37% plurality of the vote. A 50% plurality was needed for direct election, but Congress by tradition would appoint as president the candidate that won the most votes. The US conspired instead to force a second election against a single non-socialist opponent before Allende could take office.

        • markx
          Posted Jun 17, 2018 at 6:28 AM | Permalink

          Thanks Frank for the history elaborations.

          Does that mean (with the wisdom of hindsight) that the US should have been there?

          That their ‘assistance’ was beneficial to the Vietnamese/Laos/ Cambodians?

          That the Domino Theory had any basis in fact or logic?

          Or was the whole thing a colossal f***up that cost millions of lives and simply delayed and diverted the inevitable creation of what turned out to be a functioning system in Vietnam? (Laos and Cambodia are still getting sorted out, but do function)

          On the basis of your thinking, I’d guess we’d better soon help/invade Thailand?? There are major political divisions there based on economic religious and political disparity.

          Australia would also ‘benefit’ by picking the US a side and providing it military help: that’s a country solidly divided along political lines. A few million displacements and deaths might sort that out in a decade or two.

        • markx
          Posted Jun 17, 2018 at 6:36 AM | Permalink

          Vietnam, all so easily avoided:

          http://www.historynet.com/ho-chi-minh-and-the-oss.htm

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 18, 2018 at 11:22 AM | Permalink

          Markx: “Does that mean (with the wisdom of hindsight) that the US should have been there?”

          That depends on what you believe – and US leaders believed at the time. The North Vietnamese war effort was amazing. Does the willingness of the NV to suffer and die for their cause mean the US was on the wrong side? From my perspective, Hilter’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR prove that undeniably evil and dangerously aggressive authoritarian regimes can maintain amazing military efforts through effective propaganda.

          Was the Cold War and the strategy of containment necessary? I think so, but it will take too long to prove this. Ho Chi Minh left Vietnam in 1911, was a founding member of the FRENCH Communist Party, and was prepared for a leadership role by the Comintern, the USSR’s organization dedicated to promoting World Communism. In 1941, he returned to Vietnam arguably more as an agent of world communism, not a Vietnamese patriot. His story is similar to Kim’s return to North Korea and dozens of Communist leaders who gained power in Eastern Europe.

          Given the existence of the Cold War and the nature of the organization led by Ho, I think it made sense to invest in an effort to prevent the Communist takeover of 15 million South Vietnamese and earlier 50 million in Indochina as a whole. Supporting Diem made sense. The key questions was how much money and how many lives to invest once it became clear the South Vietnamese were likely to fail without significant help. Before the US sent combat troops in 1965, LBJ was told that it could take as much as 1,000,000 men and seven years to win in Vietnam. Given the size of the NV population and casualties they did suffer, success was possible – but the price was too high, especially for the American people (who believed they had been misled by their leaders). Paying the price to fight a large war and then failing to do enough to win is the stupidest thing a nation can do.

        • Frank
          Posted Jun 18, 2018 at 2:18 PM | Permalink

          Ellsberg’s book “Secrets” claims that every American President from Truman to LBJ: a) was given a realistic estimate of what needed to be done to succeed in Vietnam, b) decided upon a politically-convenient strategy he was advised was unlikely to succeed, and c) then told the American people he was following the advice of his advisors (who kept silent about the lying). This history of deception described in the Pentagon Papers, and Ellsberg released them to alert Americans to this pattern of behavior. The younger military leaders who lost in Vietnam greatly improved the US military, but I suspect this problem still exists.

          Nixon’s Vietnamization is essentially the same path we followed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Success then depends on the quality of the local leaders. With an army of nearly one million and adequate resources (and certainly with US air power), the South Vietnamese probably could have survived indefinitely, but we allowed them to be overwhelmed by military equipment from Communist countries.

          South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos all fell to the Communists in 1975. Was the domino theory correct? Detente followed for a few years and then Carter began aid to the Afghanis. Reagan resisted aggression in Grenada, Nicaragua, Angola, and Afghanistan and verbally supported groups like Solidarity. The dominos then fell in the other direction. You decide.

          You link to the OSS is meaningless. In 1945, the Viet Minh were the best organized party and military in Vietnam. If left alone, Ho would have eventually imposed the same single party state in Vietnam he did after 1954. Roosevelt did not want any American strength dissipated in Indochina before Japan surrendered, so Japanese forces were to be handled by Chinese troops in North Vietnam and British troops in South Vietnam until permanent arrangements could be agreed upon. The Brits soon sent French troops in their place and Ho INVITED French troops to replace the Chinese, because China was Vietnam’s traditional enemy and had occupied it for hundreds of years.

        • AntonyIndia
          Posted Jun 18, 2018 at 9:12 PM | Permalink

          Frank:
          “Ho INVITED French troops to replace the Chinese, because China was Vietnam’s traditional enemy and had occupied it for hundreds of years.”
          So at most Ho would have created a Vietnamese communism, independent of China and possibly supported by Russia. How long would that have lasted economically?
          The vital flaw of the Domino theory was neglecting vibrant indigenous nationalism and seeing all communism as one block. Giant egos like Stalin and Mao couldn’t cooperate for long; to split them patience was the simplest device. Instead blunt US interventions in Korea & Vietnam united them: Kissenger’s out-of-the-box solution later to contact Mao directly involved begging an Islamist Pakistani dictator (and thus messing up the sub continent) for help and finally got the US in the present trade war with China.

        • markx
          Posted Jun 20, 2018 at 3:20 AM | Permalink

          Frank, you summed it all up right here:

          “…decided upon a politically-convenient strategy he was advised was unlikely to succeed, …”

          Exactly the problem. Things were not done for the reasons stated, or with the declared intent in mind. It was simply short term political posturing for domestic political consumption.

          Lives of generations were diverted and destroyed, and millions of lives were extinguished for this.

          That was wrong in the largest way, and no “…but we thought at the time … “ lines (lies) can excuse it.

    • Don Monfort
      Posted Jun 2, 2018 at 9:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Steve:”One victim, after reaching the open street, unaccountably placed himself on a stretcher and covered himself with a blanket.”

      Is this what you call factual, coldfish?

  23. AntonyIndia
    Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 2:02 AM | Permalink | Reply

    In 1968 Seymour Hersh published his first book: “Chemical and biological warfare, America’s hidden arsenal” https://openlibrary.org/books/OL5608361M/Chemical_and_biological_warfare

    Who read it, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bashar al-Assad?

  24. AntonyIndia
    Posted Jun 3, 2018 at 9:52 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Freelance journalist Eva Bartlett on RT June 1st: Syrian civilians from ground zero expose chemical hoax https://www.rt.com/op-ed/428514-douma-civilians-chemical-hoax/

  25. AntonyIndia
    Posted Jun 16, 2018 at 9:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

    lets see what the WHO has to report on the biological weapon racin production in an apartment in Cologne, Germany: http://www.dw.com/en/german-police-carry-out-more-raids-in-cologne-after-charging-man-with-making-biological-weapon/a-44236311

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