By BRUCE LESNICK
On April 7, 2018, the U.S and its NATO allies accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma, outside Damascus. A week later, President Donald Trump, with the support of French and British allies, ordered the launch of 103 missiles. ABC News quoted Defense Secretary James Mattis as saying that the strike was necessary to demonstrate international resolve to prevent the use of chemical weapons, and that he was “confident the Syrian regime conducted a chemical attack on innocent people in the last week.” According to ABC News, President Donald Trump asserted, “The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead,” referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Reporting from Douma for The Independent on April 17, 2018, journalist Robert Fisk cast doubt on the official story. “There are the many people I talked to amid the ruins of the town who said they had “never believed in” gas stories – which were usually put about, they claimed, by the armed Islamist groups.” But the U.S. and its allies stood by their story. “France, meanwhile, has said it has ‘proof’ chemical weapons were used, and US media have quoted sources saying urine and blood tests showed this too. The WHO [World Health Organization] has said its partners on the ground treated 500 patients ‘exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals.’”
The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was dispatched to the scene to investigate but they were “blocked from coming here to the site of the alleged gas attack themselves, ostensibly because they lacked the correct UN permits.” Nevertheless, the OPCW fact finding mission (FFM) issued its “final report” report on March 1, 2019. The report states, “…based on the information reviewed and with the absence of biomedical samples from the dead bodies or any autopsy records, it is not currently possible to precisely link the cause of the signs and symptoms to a specific chemical.” However, the report goes on to conclude,
Regarding the alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon on 7 April 2018 in Douma, the Syrian Arab Republic, the evaluation and analysis of all the information gathered by the FFM—witnesses’ testimonies, environmental and biomedical samples analysis results, toxicological and ballistic analyses from experts, additional digital information from witnesses—provide reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place. This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine. The toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine.
The OPCW’s conclusions were widely reported in the corporate press as evidence that the Assad government carried out the alleged attack:
The New York Times: “Evidence of Chlorine Found in Syrian Town of Douma, Investigators Say”.
AP: “Chemical weapons watchdog says chlorine was used in Douma”.
Reuters: “Chemical weapons agency: ‘toxic chemical’ used in attack on Syrian rebel town last April”
UN News: “Security Council discusses chemical weapons use in Syria following latest global watchdog report”
The BBC: “Syria war: Chlorine likely to have been used in Douma attack – OPCW”
But on May 13, 2019, the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media published a suppressed OPCW engineering assessment that directly contradicts the OPCW’s “final report” on the Douma incident. On May 16, the OPCW confirmed the leaked assessment was genuine, saying it was “conducting an internal investigation about the unauthorised release of the document in question.”
The suppressed engineering assessment could not be more devastating. Referring to two metal cylinders that were assumed to have delivered the chemical agent, the assessment states,
In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.
Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and international security at MIT explained the significance of the leaked engineering assessment as it contradicts the official OPCW report,
“The OPCW engineering assessment unambiguously describes evidence collected by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) that indicates two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. The holes in the reinforced concrete roofs that were supposedly produced by high-speed impacts (impact at speeds of perhaps 100 m/s or more, 250 mph) of industrial chlorine canisters dropped from helicopters were instead created by earlier explosions of either artillery rockets or mortar shells. In one event a chlorine canister that was damaged on another occasion was placed on the roof with its head inserted into an existing crater hole, and in the other case a damaged chlorine cylinder was placed on a bed supposedly after it penetrated the building roof and bounced from its original trajectory into a bed. In both cases the damage to the chlorine cylinders was incompatible with the damage to the surroundings that was allegedly caused by the cylinder impacts.
“As such, 35 deaths that were originally attributed to these staged chlorine events cannot be explained and it cannot be ruled out that these people were murdered as part of the staging effort.”
To date, the corporate media that so eagerly promoted the official U.S. government narrative of the events in Douma and the formal OPCW report that reinforced it have been silent on the leaked OPCW engineering assessment which so thoroughly contradicts the official story. This entire incident serves as a reminder that critics of the imperial war machine must be vigilant and remain skeptical.
The ruling rich, their spokespersons and their media all lie. Routinely. This is their default behavior. It’s one of the tools they use to maintain power. For them to tell the truth would be to expose the injustice and irrationality of their system, of their wars, and of their foreign and domestic policies. Skepticism is always called for when evaluating contentious narratives in the midst of day-to-day struggles, but it is especially necessary when the “official” narrative makes the warmakers look like champions of truth and justice while their opponents are portrayed as monsters. It should go without saying that, just as a stopped clock will show the correct time every so often, the corporate media will mix some truth in with their falsehoods. But aware as we are of the imperial compulsion for prevarication, we should never afford them the benefit of the doubt. Self-serving claims by the ruling rich and its mouthpieces should be assumed to be false until proven otherwise by concrete, verifiable facts.