So a while back I wrote a couple of posts discussing Amnesty International and why I think it is a problematic organisation that operates within and to support the Western propaganda matrix. One of these posts discussed Amnesty International’s coverage of Syria – and in particular the alleged chemical attack in Douma – which contained establishment lies that they refused to correct when the leaks showing the doubtful veracity of the chemical attack. Now the organisation is again promoting lies about Syria.
Well, who the hell is this Chris D. York and why is it a problem?
Senior Huffington Post UK editor Chris York has published what is by my count his twelfth smear piece against a small group of academics and independent journalists who’ve expressed skepticism of establishment Syria narratives.
York’s obsessive deluge of hit pieces revolve around British academics Tim Hayward and Piers Robinson, as well as independent journalist Vanessa Beeley.
As a piece of advice to anyone out there, Amnesty International is not a trustworthy organization and should not be supported.
Yes that’s right. The evidence that was leaked to Wikileaks (see here) (and there’s been even more evidence since then) was magically hacked by Russia. Yes everything that you don’t like is Russia. These people are like creationists who believe every fossil was planted by Satan but just cross out Satan and write Russia.
I also like how its impossible for a ‘disgruntled employee’ to be a whistleblower. No you’re ‘disgruntled’ at the injustice so you leak the information – that’s literally whistleblowing. Also I think that phrase is very Eilot Higgins-y so this person has obviously swallowed the Bellingcat kool aid:
Note the complete ignoring of the evidence on the (accurate) chlorine claim.
I mean, it isn’t my only objection to Higgins (pretty sure it is true). I like the standard for regime change given here:
I like the old assertion that I’m somehow ‘attracted’ to the Assad ‘regime’ when in reality, my opinion on the Syrian government is irrelevant – I’m not Syrian and thus I have no say over the leader of that country.
By the way, the OPCW emails are the only evidence that this attack was most likely staged by the White Helmets. The claim for Assad ‘regime’ gas attack was falling apart way before then. See the Douma tag for more.
So there have been more developments in the Douma chemical weapons attack case, and lo and behold, it’s more evidence that the attack was a false flag.
Outlet Wikileaks has got hold of an email leaked from within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which shows that a member of the fact finding mission in Syria states that the preliminary report released by the OPCW misrepresented the facts and redacted crucial information.
A key example of this was the fact that the report stated that chlorine was found at the scene. However, the report excluded the fact that there was not a higher presence of chlorine than is normally the case, as there is always some degree of chlorine in the air and it is used in household products. Thus a piece of evidence that disproves a chemical attack was carried out (at least with chlorine) is twisted to become a piece of evidence that a chlorine attack took place.
No updates on the situation, either the leaked engineer’s report by Ian Henderson, or this new evidence. The nails have been driven into the coffin of this narrative for a very long time now. We literally bombed Syria based on this. The Guardian claims to hate the Tory government. If you hate them so much, why are you failing to hammer them on literally bombing a country on false pretenses?
The answer of course is that the Guardian is now heavily linked to British intelligence and only hates the Tories because they think Johnson might actually leave the EU (he won’t) and so their expensive foreign holidays might be a bit more inconvenient.
So the founder of the terrorist-supporting, false-flag creating organisation White Helmets has died. James le Mesurier was found dead on Monday and it was reported widely in the Western media.
The situation surrounding the death of Le Mesurier is as follows; he was found early in the morning on Monday and the claim is that the death was caused by a fall from height.
To refresh everyone’s memory or to introduce people to the issue if they happen to stumble on this blog, the White Helmets is an organisation that claims to be a civil defence organisation but in fact assists fighters from the terrorist groups attempting to destroy Syria. There is a multitude of evidence for this claim, anyone who is new to this issue should check out this video:
The video contains footage showing Aleppo after liberation by the Syrian military and how the ISIS and Al Nusra headquarters were right next to the White Helmets and how the imagery of both were together.
The White Helmets have also been responsible for creating false flags of chemical attacks, notably in the case of the Douma chemical attack. I have talked about this incident as a false flag multiple times on this blog. In short, the White Helmets produced a video which they claimed was of a chemical attack, in fact the video showed people suffering from hypoxia. There were also images of gas canisters which were claimed to have been dropped from a helicopter i.e. by the Assad government. However, a leaked engineer’s report from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons stated that the cylinders were manually placed (i.e. placed there by the terrorists to stage a chemical attack).
That’s the background on this extremely shady organisation. Now we can go to RT Russian for a look at the Western reaction.
Отметим, что в пятницу, 8 ноября, имя основателя «Белых касок» было упомянуто официальным представителем Министерства иностранных дел России Марией Захаровой. Она напомнила, что бывший офицер MI6 «засветился» во многих конфликтах по всему миру, включая Балканы и Ближний Восток.
We can recall that on the Friday 8 November, the name of the founder of the White Helmets was invoked by the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Maria Zakharova. She recalled that the former officer in MI6 ‘lit up’ in many conflicts around the world including in the Balkans and Middle East.
The West is using this mention by Zahkarova as a reason to blame Russia. Here’s this in Huffington Post:
As recently as Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry sowed doubt about Mr. Le Mesurier’s background as a British intelligence officer, saying on Twitter that he “has been spotted all around the world” and that Mr. Le Mesurier’s “connections to terrorist groups were reported back to his mission in #Kosovo.”
And the RT Russian article cites two other examples from the Independent and Sky news (English screenshots provided).
Now obviously these articles aren’t directly saying Russia did it, but this seems to be implied by the framing, implying that Zakharova’s critique somehow makes it likely that the Russians had him bumped off.
Obviously, this is ridiculous. Firstly, no evidence has been provided. Secondly, this implies that Russia telegraphs its assassinations in advance by the MFA spokesperson saying he’s a bad guy. It’s like the Skripals again. The West claims Putin is a master political operator and then they claim he’s incompetent enough to allow Zakharova to drop these alleged ‘hints’ for the Western media. In the same way they claimed he was a master political operator and then also claim he’s stupid enough to try and assassinate someone by smearing nerve agent on a door handle.
Use your brain and question the establishment spin.
The Western media is at it again, smearing anyone who raises questions over the now thoroughly debunked ‘Assad carried out a chemical attack in Douma in 2018’ lie as a conspiracy theorist:
So what’s the background to this whole story and why is this whole debunked narrative coming up again now? Personally I feel like a bit of a broken record pointing out the lies in the case in Douma, but anyone who has researched the truth about this incident has the obligation to try and get the truth out on this as much as they can – especially given the fact that the West literally bombed Syria on this false pretext.
The background to this story beings with the MP for Derby North, Chris Williamson. Now he was suspended from the Labour Party in February. The reason for this suspension was the fact that Williamson had made certain comments which were alleged to be anti-Semitic. The comments are usually portrayed in the mainstream media as Williamson saying that the Labour Party is too apologetic about anti-Semitism. What Williamson actually in effect said is that the Labour Party is too defensive in cases where it is smeared as being anti-Semitic, which isn’t the same at all. Whether Williamson was actually suspended for this, or whether this was used as a pretext to smear the only MP, who, to my knowledge, was raising questions about the UK government funded Integrity Initiative I will leave to you to decide. Here’s what Williamson has said about the Integrity Initiative:
What has happened with Chris Williamson’s suspension is this: He was suspended in Feburary, briefly un-suspended, and then after the Blairite apartheid apologists like Margaret Hodge and Tom Watson kicked up a stink he got re-suspended. Williamson is now suing the Labour party because he believes this re-suspension did not follow party procedure. There has been a fundraiser set up called the Campaign for Chris Williamson, which is raising money for this legal challenge to the Labour Party. This organisation states that:
On 26 June 2019, Chris’s suspension was lifted by a Disputes Panel of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee. However, following a concerted two-day media campaign by the same forces who had engineered his suspension, Chris was ‘re-suspended’ by the party on 28 June – a move without precedent in Labour’s history. He was then referred to the Party’s National Constitutional Committee, where his expulsion would almost certainly be a foregone conclusion.
With a heavy heart and after months of personal distress, Chris has been forced to take legal action against the party that he has dedicated his life to. He is challenging his ‘re-suspension’ as unlawful. But to do so, he needs your support. This could be a long and costly legal battle. We need your help to cover the immediate costs of the legal case and campaign.
Raising £75,000 will help meet the costs of Chris’s case. Raising much more than that could allow us to begin building a legal fighting fund for the Labour Left, defending other comrades who have been maliciously accused and hounded out of the party.
Campaign for Chris Williamson About Page
Now, you might be wondering what the hell any of this has to do with a faked chemical attack in Douma, Syria in 2018. Well, it turns out, quite a lot.
Williamson himself has actually raised questions about this alleged chemical attack in Syria. I examined Williamson’s questions and the responses he received from Alan Duncan in two posts which can be accessed here: Part 1 and Part 2. In short, Williamson raised questions about the leaked Engineers’ Report by Ian Henderson and whether the government was informed of dissenting views in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The Times, and in particular the establishment stenographer Oliver Kamm, isn’t very happy about Williamson’s views or the views of the people running the campaign for Chris Williamson. His article “Academics regurgitate pro‑Assad conspiracy theories” (and article is being generous as it is a few paragraphs) manages to smear Williamson, independent journalist Vanessa Beeley (100* the journalist this hack will ever be) and the individual running the Chris Williamson campaign David Miller, as well as Piers Robinson.
What this one free complementary article a month from the Times says (you expect me to pay for this dreck do you? lol) is this:
[Williamson] commented in August last year that it was a great honour to meet one Vanessa Beeley, a blogger whose sole claim to fame is her indefatigable denial of the war crimes of President Assad.
Look at how dismissive of Vanessa Beeley this hack is. Using the word ‘blogger’ to dismiss someone, mainly used by journalists in the mainstream media, without any sort of evidence proving that Beeley is factually incorrect. Beeley is not ‘denying’ anything; she is presenting evidence that a Western narrative is incorrect. I guess we are all just ‘denying’ that Saddam had WMDs as well right?
The rest of the article is just dismissive of David Miller and Piers Robinson, accusing them of promoting propaganda about Syria. It compares both of them to Holocaust deniers for being sceptical of the Western arguments about Syria.
And of course, this obligatory reference exists:
[Academics such as Miller and former academic Robinson] regurgitate crude conspiracy theories of the type found in Russian state propaganda
There is no evidence presented in the article for ‘Assad’s war crimes’. Just smears of Williamson, Beeley, Miller and Robinson. This isn’t even good propaganda, it’s probably about 300 words max and really lazy in its ‘argument’. It just expects you to believe him on faith when he says these people are conspiracy theorists.
On the Douma narrative, the establishment has no defense, other than smears. Always remember this and push for the real truth to be known about Douma.
In Part 1, I outlined that I believe that Amnesty International is a problematic organisation, and gave the first reason for this: its lack of support for Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, and its refusal to consider them prisoners of conscience and actively campaign on their cases despite both suffering severe human rights violations – including torture. This has the effect of helping to support US empire, as both Manning and Assange have exposed the lies of empire by revealing the reality of regime change.
However, Amnesty International goes further than this, and does not just fail to support truth tellers about war crimes – it actively participates in spreading lies and misinformation about Western targets for regime change. This is all the more dangerous as Amnesty is considered to be a trustworthy organisation by many in the West, making the potential impact of regime change lies much greater.
Thus the second problem with Amnesty International is:
It has been important in disseminating regime change propaganda about Syria.
This is not the place for a detailed description of the events of the Syria conflict; a brief summary will suffice for those not familiar with it. In 2011, there were protests in Syria as part of the (as dubbed by the West) ‘Arab Spring’. There were some protesters with legitimate grievances against the Assad government, but many of the protests quickly turned violent. Islamic extremist groups who are supported by the West and their proxies in the region (Saudi Arabia and Israel) took up arms against Assad although many (most?) of these individuals are not Syrian. The Syrian people in the form of the Syrian Arab Army have been resisting these extremist groups and have slowly gained the upper hand in this conflict, with the help of Russian forces, one of Syria’s key allies. The West desires regime change in Syria and has been assisting opposition forces through ‘Operation Timber-Sycamore’ among other operations. Amnesty International has played into this by supporting narratives critical of Assad, even if those narratives are not backed up by clear evidence.
According to Tim Hayward in his article “How We Were Misled About Syria: Amnesty International“, the organisation has been promoting strong claims of crimes by the Assad ‘regime’ since very early on in the conflict. Amnesty wrote an article called ‘Deadly Detention’ in which it accused the Syrian government o committing crimes against humanity. However Hayward argues this report was not rigorous enough given the extremely serious nature of its claims. The report admitted that the evidence had not been gathered on the ground and there was a lack of corroboration for many of the claims. In the footnotes to his article, Hayward goes into more detail about this issue.
This is not the only case where Amnesty reporting on Syria has been faulty. More recently, a report called “Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison,” was released by Amnesty International. Independent media has criticised this report for suffering the same failings as ‘Deadly Detention’. As written in Consortium News:
[The report] relies on third parties, it did not gather its information from different points of view, and it did not cross-check with all parties. The report’s conclusions are not based on primary sources, material evidence or AI’s own staff; the findings are solely based on the claims of anonymous individuals, mostly in southern Turkey from where the war on Syria is coordinated.
I am certain that the recent images from Douma that have been collated and verified – using well-established methodologies – by trusted organizations are not faked
Sam Dubberley, Manager of Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps
Now this in an interesting quote, because nowhere in the article is the word ‘fake’ clarified. In this kind of context, fake could mean two things: firstly a fake image could be that which is digitally manipulated and so on in order to show something that is not true. But the second possibility is that the ‘fake’ image is real in the sense of the fact that it was actually taken at the location but the incident was ‘fake’ i.e. staged. An image could be not fake in the first sense but very much fake in the second sense. This is nowhere raised or explained in the article.
The article then goes on to discuss the spread of ‘fake news’ across social media and how the Syrian government is taking advantage of it to hide their real atrocities. It then goes on to say:
The aftermath of the 7 April attack on Douma saw a spike in this type of false content – a Pentagon spokesperson cited a 2,000% increase in activity by Russian bots. A particularly striking example, spotted by the online investigation collective Bellingcat, was footage shared as “proof” that the White Helmets had staged the attacks. In fact, it was taken from “Revolution Man” – a fictional film funded by the Syrian Ministry of Culture about a journalist who enters Syria and fabricates chemical weapons attacks.
Sam Dubberley, Manager of Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps
In an article about Syria, they are literally quoting the a Pentagon spokesperson as authoritative evidence. The claim by the Pentagon spokesperson is taken at face value with no critical analysis whatsoever. No evidence is presented. A supposed impartial human rights organisation relying on claims by the Pentagon without critical assessment reveals the real lack of impartiality behind the mask. We also know that real Twitter users who disagree with the UK and US governments have been called Russian bots – for example the user Ian56, who is clearly not a Russian bot as he did interviews with Sky News and the independent journalist Gordon Dimmack.
Then they cite Bellingcat, an organisation responsible for pushing the bizarre Skripal narrative in the UK. This reference to Bellingcat is also concerning as the organisation has more recently (after the publication of the Amnesty report) promoted nonsense about Syria. Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, has made baseless claims regarding the Henderson report, a leaked engineer’s report from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OCPW) which provides evidence that the establishment claim – that the chlorine gas cylinders were dropped from a helicopter – is implausible.
Then this idea that the White Helmets staged a video is mentioned but immediately dismissed. This has aged very badly, since even a BBC journalist has admitted that the footage was staged at this point. I haven’t seen or heard of the ‘Revolution Man’ footage, but even if the claims relating to this are true, it doesn’t invalidate the possibility that the White Helmets staged the video – it merely proves one piece of evidence for that claim is false. There is also no serious discussion or consideration of the mountains of evidence pointing to the dodgy nature of the White Helmets that has been filmed by individuals on the ground.
An objective human rights organisation would revisit the claims around the Douma attack in the wake of the leaked Henderson report, and correct the record of any false or misleading claims that were made at that time [the above article doesn’t outright say the Syrian government is responsible, but it is implied]. However, a search ran on Amnesty’s website for the word ‘Douma’ reveals the most recent article available is from 3 May 2018:
Amnesty International is thus not to be trusted in its coverage of Syria. Any individual who is honestly concerned about the Syrian people should instead amplify the voices of independent journalists such as Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley who are telling the truth about the real situation on the ground in Syria.
When I was searching for information about Ukraine online, which I plan to do future articles about, I accidentally stumbled on this side called EU vs DISINFORMATION [Yes, it is in all caps in the browser]. This is what it says in its About page:
This website is part of a campaign to better forecast, address and respond to pro-Kremlin disinformation. The ‘EU versus Disinformation’ campaign is run by the European External Action Service East Stratcom Task Force. The team was set up after the EU Heads of State and Government stressed the need to challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns in March 2015.
EU vs DISINFORMATION About page.
Its of course interesting to note that this started in March 2015 i.e. before Russiagate drove the liberal media to utter insanity. This reminds us that this focus on Russia goes back before 2016 and foreshadowed Russiagate as an establishment tactic to undermine anyone they dislike by calling them Russian backed, including most recently Hawaii Congresswoman and Democratic candidate for president Tulsi Gabbard. It’s also interesting that an outlet claiming to focus on disinformation only targets that ‘disinformation’ when it fits in with what “the Kremlin” thinks about something. This is the word diagram for the alleged disinformation that they are combating:
Well, it’s no wonder I found this while searching for ‘Ukraine’ since according to this outlet the Russians do nothing else but spend all day promoting false narratives about Ukraine!
I would never claim that Russia never says anything false to advance an agenda, because every country does this to an extent. But the things that Western media seems to focus on as examples of Russian disinformation are often fact the Western media doesn’t like.
Now, let’s find an example of alleged ‘Russian disinformation’ that we can discuss in more detail. Some of the alleged examples of disinformation are in languages I don’t read, as RT and Sputnik publish in more than one European language. But this example of the claim of Russian disinformation about the White Helmets is a good one to address, as it talks about an article in the Russian language. Summary and translation where relevant will be provided.
The “White Helmets” is an organization that creates fake videos and photos about the war in Syria. All the work of the “White Helmets” is directed exclusively at a Western audience and does not reflect the real state of affairs in Syria.
EU vs DISINFORMATION summary of alleged Russian ‘disinformation’ about the White Helmets.
We can now look at the original Russian article. Roughly, what it says is this. The OPCW is in a deep crisis because western governments are trying to hide the truth about Douma, according to Russian representative to the OPCW Alexander Shulgin. New witness accounts have emerged that say this alleged chemical attack in Douma [effectively blamed on Assad by the OPCW] did not happen and the bodies found at the scene were those of combatants.
Then the article goes on to talk about the role of the White Helmets in this claim that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical attack:
Тогда организация «Белые каски» обвинила правительственные войска Сирии в химической атаке против мирного населения. Под этим предлогом через неделю США, Великобритания и Франция нанесли авиационные и ракетные удары по САР.
Then [after the incident in Douma] the organisation the White Helmets accused the governmental troops of Syria of carrying out a chemical attack against civilians. Under this supposition, within a week the USA, Britain and France had carried out air and rocket strikes on the Syrian Arab Republic.
Sergei Gusarov and Alexander Bovdunov, RT Russian. Translation by the author.
The article then goes on to mention the Henderson report, a suppressed OPCW report which cast doubt on the claim that the canisters were dropped from a helicopter, rather that they were manually placed. It follows from the supposition that the canisters were manually placed the possibility that the event was staged in order to vilify Assad.
The article then goes on to suggest this was the case. The article quotes someone called Andrei Koshkin:
«Белые каски» создают фейки и даже не стараются оправдываться, когда их опровергают. За то время, пока их разоблачают, они могут создать десятки новых роликов, которыми буквально заваливают западного обывателя. Таким образом, инвестиции Соединённых Штатов Америки и их союзников в «Белые каски» окупаются многократно»,
The White Helmets create false flags [Lit: the Anglicism ‘faik’] and even attempt to justify themselves when these are refuted. Until the time when they are exposed, they can create dozens of new videos which literally swamp Western observers. From the point of view of the US and its allies, their investment in the White Helmets pays for itself many times over.
Andrei Koshkin, quoted in above RT Russian article. Translation by the author.
This seems to be the specific portion of the article that this EU vs DISINFORMATION takes issue with.
So let’s have a look at the ‘debunking’ of this ‘false narrative’ about the White Helmets shall we?
The “White Helmets” movement originated in Syria in 2012, when the first detachments of volunteer rescuers appeared in the territories outside of the control of Bashar al-Assad’s troops. In 2014, volunteer teams merged into a national organisation, the Syrian Civil Defence, which is the official name of the White Helmets. Volunteers save people from the rubble after bombings, despite the danger of dying themselves as a result of repeated air strikes. Activists have documented the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Assad government and allied forces. Because of this, they have become the target of an extensive Russian disinformation campaign.
EU vs DISINFORMATION claim to ‘debunk’ ‘Russian disinformation’.
Its worth noting that the original Russian article is around 1,200 words long [I’m not sure, but this may be more words in an English translation. Russian’s declension system often dispenses with words that English requires, such as ‘of’]. They’ve attempted to debunk it with one paragraph, which is beyond laughable.
The first link provided – other than links to other pages on EU vs DISINFORMATION – is a link to the White Helmets website. I mean if they stage chemical attacks to vilify Assad it’s hardly going to be something that’s in the website, is it? That is beyond obvious. [It’s also rather sketchy that some so called ‘Syrian volunteers’ have a well presented English language website].
This article claims that the White Helmets ‘have documented use of chemical weapons’. This is the very claim at issue here. Yet look – there is no link or discussion of any evidence that the chemical weapons attacks took place at all or were documented by the White Helmets. They simply expect you to take their word for it. The RT Russian article doesn’t do this at all. The article discusses the crisis in the OPCW and the alleged chemical attack, but goes on to discuss evidence that supports the idea that the attack was staged – in particular the Henderson report, and new eyewitness testimony. The article then goes on to claim the staging by the White Helmets off the back of this evidence. In order to disprove the the RT article claims of a staged event, it would be necessary to directly address the Henderson report and the new eyewitness testimony and why they are false. I mean if you believe that Henderson is a secret Russian agent or some shit, bring forth the evidence – don’t just simply restate the claim at issue and act like its some sort of fact that the White Helmets observed a real chemical attack.
But maybe the links will help us? I mean, in itself if you’re going to claim to be debunking disinformation I believe you should at least summarise a link. We shouldn’t be expected to click all over the place to get to your basic argument.
The first link is from The Guardian, which has increasing links to the British deep state and so increasingly relies on British deep state narratives, one of which is promoting the White Helmets. This article cannot help us regarding the ”chemical attack” in Douma, as it was written before that took place. Therefore, it is useless in rebutting or refuting the specific claims made in the RT article. It does say this, though:
Olivia Solon, How Syria’s White Helmets became Victims of an Online Propaganda Machine
Funny how there always happens to be a White Helmet at all these Assad atrocities eh? Not suspicious at all.
The second link is goddamned Bellingcat. Yes that’s reliable. It’s not a British intelligence linked front at all. Nope, nothing to see here. It’s a Russian language link too. Very helpful for readers of your English-language website. For those who don’t know anything about them, they have been at the forefront of pushing the UK government’s obviously fake shit about the Skripals. Even the Independent asks where their money came from. At least in the case of RT, we know that the Russian government has links to it, so we can take that into account and judge the claims they make accordingly.
The outlet’s incredibly shady founder, Eliot Higgins, has responded to this new revelation by pinning a tweet citing a completely baseless theory that the WGSPM [Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media – the outlet which the Henderson Report was leaked to] “got played by a disgruntled OPCW employee.”
For more examples you can read the full article by Johnstone.
This isn’t even a good attempt at ‘debunking’ Russian disinformation. In fact, it’s beyond pathetic. The original Russian article provides far more evidence than this ridiculous ‘EU vs DISINFORMATION site. This ‘debunking’ of ‘Russian disinformation’ rely on the person not being able to read the Russian article so they can’t call out that the debunking is bullshit. Well, I can read Russian, and this laughable website did not in any way successfully debunk this article from RT. In fact, it is EU vs DISINFORMATION that is spreading disinformation in this case, not RT.
Previously, Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, asked three questions of the government relating to an alleged chemical attack carried out in Douma, Syria in 2018. The full context of these questions can be found here. As this is a follow on from the previous entry, I would suggest that you read that first.
After receiving the above responses from Alan Duncan, Williamson posed two further questions on 17 June relating to the issue of this alleged chemical attack in Douma. Here is the first question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he was informed that there was dissent among Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team members on 14 March 2019 when the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council voted down a proposal to allow all FFM team members to brief the OPCW Executive Council on the FFM investigation of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma in 2018.
This is the response received from Alan Duncan [quoted in part; see link for full response]:
Ministers receive regular and frequent advice on Syria, including the use of chemical weapons by the Asad [sic] regime. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) published on 1 March 2019 the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) report into the chemical weapons attacks in Douma. The FFM conducted a full briefing of States Parties on 5 March. The Director General of the OPCW offered all States Parties the opportunity to submit further questions in writing; and to have technical discussions with the FFM. At the Executive Council on 14 March, the Russian delegation proposed without prior notice a vote on an FFM briefing to State Parties. The UK voted against holding a vote on this issue, as did a clear majority of Executive Council members. The Director General OPCW has confirmed that all evidence and views were taken into consideration in preparing the FFM report; and that the Technical Secretariat stands by the findings.
This does not answer the question. Stating that ‘all evidence and views were taken into account’ is not the same as the UK government being explicitly informed that there was dissent among the various individuals that assessed the evidence on the Douma issue. Also, this does not give any sort of explanation as to why the UK voted down the FFM briefing other than it was posed ‘without prior notice’ which seems a weak reason to me. It was probably voted down by the UK on the grounds that it was posed by Syria’s ally and the UK’s ‘enemy’ Russia.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he instructed the UK’s permanent representative on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council to vote against a proposal to allow all Fact Finding Mission (FFM) team members to brief the OPCW Executive Council on the FFM investigation into the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma in 2018.
Here is the second answer from Duncan:
On 14 March 2019 the UK and a clear majority of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council members voted against holding a vote on a Russian proposal on the handling of a briefing by the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM). The vote was called without prior notice. Instructions to the UK Delegation to the OPCW issued in line with normal procedures. The FFM briefed States Parties on 5 March on the findings of the Douma report and regular briefings are held, most recently on 28 May, on the OPCW’s work in Syria. We continue to have confidence in both our own and the FFM conclusions into the chemical weapons attack in Douma on 7 April 2018.
Looking at this answer, I decided to do some digging on the OCPW website to attempt to get further information. It appears that the 14 March vote would have taken place during the Executive Council 90 of the OCPW, as it falls within the correct date range given. These are the countries that took part as participants in the Executive Council according to the OCPW:
Algeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.
Looking through the documents listed on the OCPW’s website, I could not find any dated 14 March other than one about the Salary of the Director General, and in fact many of the documents appear to be background written before the meeting of the OCPW Executive Council.
One thing of interest that I did find, however, is a document dated 26 April, which the Russian Federation wanted circulated as part of the Executive Council 90. This document is a comment by the Russian Federation about the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma. The Russian Federation’s document argues for these main points:
Questioning the chain of custody and the analysis of environmental samples;
That the OCPW did not pay sufficient attention to witnesses of the staged White Helmets video;
That it does not explain how a 3cm breach in the cylinder at one of the locations could have been so effective at killing the victims;
That the analysis of the location of the cylinders failed to take into account the fact that Syrian helicopters fly at a higher altitude than modeled in the analysis;
That the damage observed is not consistent with the dropping of the cylinders from an aircraft.
[For reference, the Henderson Report was released on the 13 May 2019, so this Russian document was written before this happened].
Given the fact that the Russian Federation released this document to the OCPW, it would have thus been obvious that the Russian government had concerns about the narrative that was being pushed on the Douma issue. As I stated I can’t seem to find a document relating to the 14 May that is relevant. But it seems obvious that the Russians tabled this amendment to hear from the full FFM team, and that it was done so without any prior notice, because the Henderson report was only leaked a day earlier than the Russian tabling of the question. Add this to the fact that the Russian Federation clearly had concerns relating to flaws in the narrative on Douma anyway, and the leaked Henderson report gave Russia a logical opportunity to raise this issue.
Bringing us back to Duncan’s response to Williamson, he does not answer the question, he simply says that it was ‘in line with normal procedures’, which is not a sufficient answer to the question.
Chris Williamson again deserves credit for tabling these questions, but he will continue to be ignored. One has to wonder whether the recent vilifying of Williamson as an anti-Semite is related to the fact that he has posed these awkward questions to the government, which they are unable to satisfactorily answer.
There has been a large amount of controversy relating to an alleged chemical attack that took place in Douma, Syria in April 2018. Western powers attributed responsibility for this alleged attack to the Syrian government and in response the US, UK and French governments bombed Syria. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OCPW) later released a report, which did not officially attribute blame to any party, but as it argued that cylinders containing chlorine were dropped from a helicopter this essentially implied that the Assad government in Syria was responsible. However new evidence has come to light casting doubt on this claim.
A leaked report, written by the OCPW engineer Ian Henderson, provides a rather different perspective on what happened in Douma. This engineer’s report assessed the evidence at the scene and found that it was much more likely that the cylinders were manually moved to their position shown in the photographs. This contradicts the claim that the cylinders were dropped from a helicopter, and thus, at a minimum, casts doubt on the Assad government’s responsibility for the attack. This is a very serious claim, since it follows that the UK and its allies bombed a sovereign country based upon false information. It also suggests that the OCPW may be compromised by a political agenda, as they did not mention this report in their final analysis.
Derby North MP Chris Williamson decided to pose a question to the government relating to this attack, expressing his concern that the UK had bombed another country on false pretences. Here is the text of Williamson’s question, which was asked on 3 June 2019:
A response was posted to Williamson’s question on the 10 June 2019 by Alan Duncan. The response to Williamson is, as can be imagined, not acceptable. I am going to break down the response and express my concern for its inadequacies.
“The UK has full confidence in the expertise and methodologies of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission (FFM). We welcome the clearly-evidenced FFM report on Douma that found “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon has taken place on 7 April 2018. This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine. The toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine.” We have confidence in this conclusion. The OPCW Technical Secretariat has confirmed that all evidence and views were considered in preparing the FFM report.”
This is a problematic conclusion given that there is no indication of the views of Ian Henderson and his report being referred to in any way in the original document. At the very least, the views of Henderson – clearly in conflict with the main report – should have been disclosed as an alternative perspective or as conflicting evidence.
“A significant amount of information indicates that the Syrian Regime was responsible for this attack, a regime with a history of using such weapons against its people.”
First we should note the use of language in the response – the ‘Syrian Regime’. Only countries that the West dislikes or considers to be enemies are ever referred to as a ‘regime’. This language is inherently biased. The problem with invoking the history of alleged chemical attacks by the Assad government is that if evidence was suppressed for a political agenda by the OCPW in this case, it is perfectly possible that the same thing has happened in other cases as well. Invoking the history of the OCPW’s investigations while it is these that are very much in question is circular logic.
“No other group could have carried out this attack.”
Here Duncan makes a very bold claim: that it is impossible for an non-governmental armed group to have staged an incident attempting to make it appear as if the Syrian government carried out a chemical attack. This is a highly implausible claim for which no evidence is provided.
“The UK considers that the military action in April last year was legal. The UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering. The action taken was to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people which has been exacerbated by the use of chemical weapons.”
The legality or otherwise of the strikes is not the main point of issue here, since it would follow from the idea that the attacks were staged that the strikes were illegal, even on the criteria laid out by Duncan. It follows that, if the suffering of the Syrian people was not caused by the Assad government – the claim very much in question – that bombing the Syrian government to reduce this suffering is illogical and not legal.
It is worth noting that Williamson also asked two other questions relating to Syria the day after posing this original question, June 4th. Both of these questions relate to the exclusion of Henderson’s evidence from the Fact Finding Mission [FFM]. The first of these two questions relates to whether the statement of the 12 March by the UK to the OCPW of their approval of the report has been reassessed given the exclusion of Henderson’s evidence. The second question is about “the adequacy of a further investigation by the Investigations and Identification Team [IIT] to identify those responsible for the incident in Douma” given the exclusion of the Henderson evidence.
In his response to the first of these two questions [actually answered a day later than the second question], Duncan continues to express the view that the “Syrian regime was responsible for the chemical weapon attack in Douma” and defends the FFM. In his response to the second question, Duncan says this:
”We have full confidence in expertise and methodologies of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission (FFM). The OPCW Director General has confirmed that all evidence and views were considered by FFM in reaching its conclusion. The final FFM report of 1 March made a clear conclusion of reasonable grounds to believe a chemical weapons attack took place. Important now the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) are allowed to move forward with their vital work of identifying those responsible for such attacks in Syria. We are confident the IIT will consider all relevant information when attributing responsibility for such attacks.”
This answer does not attribute blame to the Syrian government but says that the Investigation and Identification Team will be assessing the matter of blame. If this is the case, then how can Duncan be so certain in his assessment that the Syrian ‘regime’ was responsible?
that the UK government most likely has bombed a foreign country on
false pretences, this needs to be fully investigated. Chris
Williamson deserves credit for raising this question, even though he
will be ignored by most politicians and the mainstream media.