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The Hugely Important OPCW Scandal Keeps Unfolding. Here’s Why No One’s Talking About It

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Written by Caitlin Johnstone; Originally appeared at her blog

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is now hemorrhaging evidence that the US and its allies deceived the world once again about yet another military intervention, which should be a front-page story all over the world. Yet if you looked at American news media headlines you’d think the only thing that matters right now is indulging the childish fantasy that Donald Trump might somehow magically be removed from office via supermajority consensus in a majority-Republican Senate.

The Hugely Important OPCW Scandal Keeps Unfolding. Here’s Why No One’s Talking About It

CounterPunch has published an actual bombshell of a report by journalist Jonathan Steele containing many revelations about the OPCW scandal which were previously unknown to the public. Steele is an award-winning reporter who worked as a senior foreign correspondent for The Guardian back before that outlet was purged of all critical thinkers on western imperialism; he first waded into the OPCW controversy last month with a statement made on the BBC revealing the existence of a second whistleblower on the organisation’s investigation into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria.

If you haven’t been following this story you can click here for a timeline of events to fully appreciate the significance of these new revelations about the Douma incident, but just to quickly recap, in April of last year reports surfaced that dozens of civilians had been killed in that city by chemical weapons used by the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad. This immediately drew skepticism from people who’ve been paying attention to the narrative manipulation campaign against Syria, since Assad had already won the battle for Douma and had no strategic reason to employ banned weapons there knowing that there would be a military strike in retaliation from western powers. True to form, a few days later the US, France and the UK launched airstrikes on the Syrian government.

The OPCW released its final report on Douma in March of this year, but that report has been contradicted by two separate whistleblowers from the Douma investigation. The first surfaced in May of this year with a leaked Engineering Assessment claiming the chlorine cylinders found at the crime scene were unlikely to have been dropped from the air, and that it was far more likely that they were manually placed there, i.e. staged, by the occupying opposition forces in Douma. The second whistleblower came forward last month with a day-long presentation in Brussels before a panel of experts assembled by the whistleblowing defense group Courage Foundation, the findings of which were published by WikiLeaks.

This new report by Steele focuses on information provided to him by the second whistleblower, who is going by the pseudonym “Alex” out of fear for his safety. The information provided by Alex has turned out to be far more incendiary even than the leaked Engineering Assessment. Here are seven major highlights (hyperlinks go to the relevant article text they reference):

1- US government officials attempted to pressure OPCW investigators into believing that the Assad government was responsible for the Douma incident. The officials were placed in the same room as the investigators by the OPCW’s then-cabinet chief Bob Fairweather, which the investigators of course felt was a grossly inappropriate breach of the OPCW’s commitment to impartiality. For the record the US government already has a known history of bullying the OPCW, an ostensibly independent and international body, to force it to allow the advancement of pre-existing regime change agendas.

2- Alex reports that internal dissent on the OPCW’s official publications on the Douma incident was far more ubiquitous than previously known, saying “Most of the Douma team felt the two reports on the incident, the Interim Report and the Final Report, were scientifically impoverished, procedurally irregular and possibly fraudulent.”

3- All but one member of the team agreed with the Engineering Assessment that it was far more likely that the chlorine cylinders were manually placed on the scene by people on the ground.

4- Ian Henderson, the South African ballistics expert whose name was signed on the leaked Engineering Assessment, seems to have been responsible for leaking it. The identity of the leaker was not previously known to the public.

5- Investigators experienced pressures against saying anything about their mounting findings that no chemical attack occurred, with Alex calling it “the elephant in the room which no-one dared mention explicitly”.

6- The OPCW’s Final Report on the Douma incident explicitly claimed the investigation found “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.” Yet according to Alex the levels of chlorinated organic chemicals found on the scene “were no higher than you would expect in any household environment” and were in fact “much lower than what would be expected in environmental samples”, comparable to or even lower than the World Health Organisation’s recommended chlorine levels for drinking water. This extremely crucial fact was actively and repeatedly omitted from the OPCW’s public reporting in a way Alex describes as “deliberate and irregular”.

7- Steele mentioned last month that he’d unsuccessfully reached out to the OPCW for comment on the second OPCW whistleblower’s revelations, and in his new article he confirms that the organisation is still dodging him, with both Fairweather and the OPCW’s media office refusing to respond. La Repubblica’s Stefania Maurizi has also been reporting that the OPCW is dodging the press on this important matter. The OPCW did respond to press inquiries after the first whistleblower surfaced in May, but it appears that someone has given the order to cease doing so with the claims of this second whistleblower.

If there were any correlation between newsworthiness and actual news coverage, the OPCW scandal would be making front-page international headlines today. Instead, the mounting evidence that the US and its allies committed a war crime based on false information and that a supposedly independent watchdog organisation helped them cover it up barely registers. Why is that?

If you ask Syria narrative managers like The Guardian’s George Monbiot or The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan, this isn’t a big story because even if Assad wasn’t responsible for the Douma incident, it doesn’t matter because he’s still a very bad man. But this is an extremely intellectually dishonest obfuscation on their part, because this has nothing to do with whether or not Bashar al-Assad is a nice person. The OPCW covering up its findings exculpating the Syrian government on Douma wouldn’t be significant because it would mean that Assad is a good person, it would be significant because it would mean the US deceived the world about yet another military intervention. And it would make it much harder for the US to manufacture public support for other military interventions in the future.

Which is of course the real reason the political/media class is ignoring the OPCW scandal. Military violence is the glue that holds the US-centralized empire together, which means it is of utmost strategic importance that that empire retain the ability to manufacture consent for military violence going forward. Because plutocrat-controlled news media outlets are set up in such a way that their employees know their careers depend on protecting the empire upon which the plutocratic class is built, the OPCW scandal is an obvious no-go for anyone who wishes to remain in the business.

The only way this story will get mainstream coverage is if it goes viral without the assistance of the mainstream media, at which point the propagandists will be forced to report on it to save face and begin the near-impossible task of trying to regain control of the narrative. This will only happen if enough of us work together to shove the OPCW scandal into mainstream attention. I think this would end up being a very good thing for the world.

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  • LR captain

    i’d like to point a few things. Not about Duma but about things as a whole.

    1st isis still controlled areas around the iraqi boarder on the western side the of river. Basicly a large enough of a presence to just justify the kurds launching attacks in the boarder region.

    2nd the US just recently bribed the local tribes to join the SDF and in turn hand over the oil feilds, while having kurd blow dams up hindering the SAA from reaching the oil fields.

    3rd There was still a real threat that through the kurds Syria would be blocked off from Iraq.

    4th the SAA were not in idlib province and not even in greater idlib area.

    5th an ISIS pocket was still in southern Syria right along syrian boarder no less, israel could have used that as an excuse intervene. thus israel could have invade more syrain land. In fact they could have deployed their forces with “moderate” rebels in the area, preventing the SAA from clearing area

    6th Russia was backing down from the war stating the their support to Assad was not unconditional and Assad may have had to sign away more Syrian oil drilling rights to Russian companies. To keep the Russian support.

    7th The SAAs air defenses very much in a weakened state after the US n co missile strike, then IDF striking SAA air defenses while in a reloading phase.

    8th syrain people were still displaced internally and the areas where still not safe enough for them to return to their homes.

    i want to everyone to look at these point and see how far Syria has come. so when those trolls tell that Assad is failing look at how much they failed. How chance they missed.

    Back then if the US put 18,000 boots on the ground and said that they will remove Assad by force the Russians would have left. Now that number is 36,000 US boots on the ground.

    The Cost of the empire to remove Assad Increases every day. Now all they can do is keep him from reaching the full power that Syria would allow him. But the cheap to produce oil resources that been lost, Will in time be replaced by small but yet more diverse industries. The small industries that make up for the loss in oil revenue will produce products for Syria that US tried keep from it through it sanctions..weapons medical drugs, advanced components. wind turbines etc

    • verner

      and – russia is in place and idlib will be liberated and the ne will be dekurdified by the saa and turkey and the unhinged states of A will sort of be forced to accept another defeat and withdraw behind the iraqi border – the full animosity towards the kurds by turkey and syria (and iraq and iran) is not fully appreciated by the west and the fact is that the kurds never will be granted any kind of statelet anywhere in the border-area and thus the israeli plan to kurdify the ne is dead in the water. give it another year and the israeli/us defeat will be obvious for anyone to see.

      • LR captain

        look the point when i said all the US n co can do it limit Syria from returning to full strength. I am well aware the US can’t stay there for long 30,000,000 in oil revenue is not enough to maintain large presence there. i did the math 65 per US soldier or PMC the 1,000 per Kurdish fighter.
        so either it 461 US personal or 30,000 Kurdish troops. that area is a drain and eventually as less and less kurds become available costs the maintaining areas increase they will with draw eventually.

        but the short time Assad will diversify the Syrian economy, proving that Syria can survive without it and one it is return the economy will be stable and stronger than ever.

    • Tudor Miron

      You guys keep judging things by current states and keep failing to see the process in development. At this point you state that oil fields are lost. A year ago there were statements that area east of the river is lost forever. Current states are just episodes in the process :)

      • LR captain

        i guess you fail to see whole point of the comment, manly when i said look how far Syria has come.

        • FlorianGeyer

          Some of what you say is misunderstood.

          Perhaps if you had written-: Pro US sources have made the following list of eight statements. ” ****************************************************** ”
          it would have been clearer that they were not your personal opinions.

          Just a thought, as English is not your 1st language I think.

          • LR captain

            English is my first language. I guess should have titled it 8 plans US plans the Assad fucked up.

          • FlorianGeyer

            That would indeed have been a superb title :)

        • Tudor Miron

          It’s just that I disagree with this lines:
          “6th Russia was backing down from the war stating the their support to Assad was not unconditional and Assad may have had to sign away more Syrian oil drilling rights to Russian companies. To keep the Russian support.
          7th The SAAs air defenses very much in a weakened state after the US n co missile strike, then IDF striking SAA air defenses while in a reloading phase.”
          But I didn’t mean to offend you.

          • LR captain

            6th Russian made statement after the strikes.

            7th when France UK and US launched missile strikes at SAA target after the duma set up. But and about an hour after the US n co did their trikes israel launched their own missile like a so called second wave to hit the SAA anti-air positions that responded. When they destroyed the pansir system south front stated that loitering munition used hit the pansir while it was in reloading phase. 70 missiles where fired in and effort to force a lasting damage.

    • Harry Smith

      Back then if the US put 18,000 boots on the ground and said that they will remove Assad by force the Russians would have left. Now that number is 36,000 US boots on the ground.

      Is it assumption or affirmation?

      • LR captain

        it is the number of soldiers that US would need to deploy to counter the loss of US political power in the region. But also to full fill it objectives.

        the goal in this case force Russians to abandon Syria. If the US put 12,000 boots of the ground with intention of removing Assad the Russians believe that they could retrain and equip the Syrians to fight off the US troops. Sucking the US in into a war bog that they can’t win and that will more and more resources from the dying empire.

        • Harry Smith

          Sorry, but I mean why 36,000 and not 40,000 or 29,000. Where did you get this number. Do you have a calculated plan or it’s just apron number by your opinion?

          • LR captain

            rough estimate, based how foes the US will face.
            retrained SAA fighters + Hezbollah fighters + PMU fighters + IRGC fighters + Russian security forces.

            the forces of SAA and PMU are increase and all the groups are gain experienced.

            While the number that ground force that the US ally with are getting smaller.

          • Harry Smith

            What about air control?

          • LR captain

            air control, air power won’t win wars, boots on the ground will. AA defenses could be attacked by ground forces and airstrips pounded by artillery.

            the skies over Syria would contested by all parties.

          • Harry Smith

            Maybe I am wrong but as I know conventional army units without air superiority have to lose in modern warfare.

          • LR captain

            Afghanistan, Vietnam those ring any bells US has full air power but failed to make advances.

            the plus with Pansirs and personal man pad drones will quickly put out of action and allow heavy systems like s-300 to raise the danger level of carrying out air strikes on an area.

            also read up on ww2 allies upon entering France had air superiority but ever time the weather did not cooperate the Germans made gains and Many allies soldiers die.

            Air power may allow you to supply your forces easier, sure you can bomb heavy enemy strong points. But when you are using a $10,000 to bomb a $10 tent you’re winning a war.

            Now stop nit-picking on subject that was not necessary to cover. But of common sense.

  • verner

    the rest of the world is quiet on the opcw for the simple reason that to voice any concern will piss of the unhinged states of A, whose narrative is the only acceptable narrative, and thus it’s better to stay schtum. after all it’s a long way from home.

  • PZIVJ

    “Yet according to Alex the levels of chlorinated organic chemicals found on the scene “were no higher than you would expect in any household environment” and were in fact “much lower than what would be expected in environmental samples”, comparable to or even lower than the World Health Organisation’s recommended chlorine levels for drinking water. This extremely crucial fact was actively and repeatedly omitted from the OPCW’s public reporting in a way Alex describes as “deliberate and irregular”.

  • Tudor Miron

    Those in the West who are still buying into “free press” fairy tales should be given free meds but even that wouldn’t help them :) So called free press is nothing other than an instrument of mind control. Together with ever deteriorating education standards MSM is very successful in turning their population into bunch of consuming sheeple. Instagram society in full swing :)

    • FlorianGeyer

      Yes, A 20 year old student Reading Law ( studying for a Law Degree) at a UK university was complaining in the UK Daily Telegraph that his eventual £50,000 + interest loan was unfair and he did not understand it.

      It seems that no one told him to read the small print before he signed anything. :)
      Un-paid loans are written off after 30 years anyway and those earning under a level to not pay either , until they earn above the level.

      Unlike the Democratic USA, Swat Teams cannot kick your door is and arrest you in the UK for non payment.

      With future lawyers such as the 20 year old, what could possible go wrong ?
      Perhaps he should have chosen accountancy as a career instead :)