On April 8, a video that rapidly achieved ‘viral’ status (to the right) purportedly showing victims suffering from an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria was posted on social media by the White Helmets, a Western-funded NGO founded in Turkey by an ex-British mercenary that portrays itself as a politically-neutral, first-response civil search and rescue team of brave volunteers yet operates exclusively in rebel-controlled territories (while fraudulently appropriating the identity of “Syria Civil Defence” stolen from Syria’s real ICDO-certified civil fire and rescue organization — accessible by dialing “113” anywhere in the country — who hold the only valid claim on that name since their 1953 inception), notoriously functioning as the media propaganda wing of militant Salafi/jihadi terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, Al Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaish al-Islam, and Free Syrian Army. A joint statement by the White Helmets and the USAID-funded Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) blamed the Syrian government for the attack, claiming to have documented “43 casualties” and that “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.” The number of deaths has fluctuated from “dozens” to anywhere between 43 and 80, though mysteriously not a single casualty has been identified by name and not a single dead body has emerged. Where are the funeral and memorial services for all these alleged victims?
The “chlorine gas attack” was later debunked by numerous corroborating independent reports and witness statements concluding to have been cases of hypoxia, or oxygen starvation, caused by a massive dust storm following extensive shelling by government forces mixed with strong winds, which swept underground to where many of Douma’s inhabitants were driven to relocate for shelter from the frequent air raids and rocket and artillery fire which had reduced the city to smashed piles of rubble and dust.
Nevertheless, Western news outlets immediately and unquestioningly disseminated the unverified footage of suffocating children all over mainstream media, the horrific images looping through over and over again on reflective glow screens while increasingly unhinged liberal corporate pundits, who consistently manufacture public consent for perpetual war, deliver bombastic grandiloquent castigations of President Bashar al-Assad demanding swift, aggressive military escalation in Syria. The many witness statements denying that a chemical attack had taken place were scoffed at by corporate news outlets who cited unnamed sources as having been delivered under duress and threat of retaliation by the Syrian government. Any inconsistencies in the Western mainstream narrative were brushed off as “Russian and pro-Assad propaganda.”
Subsequently, the US, UK, and France rushed to present the Syrian government’s automatic presumed culpability in the unverified gas attack as a pretext for immediately launching an illegal missile strike before a proper independent investigation could be conducted, in direct violation of international law and without UN Security Council authorization.
The US, UK, and France’s auspiciously timed “precision strike” on April 14, firing 103 cruise missiles on Syrian targets — of which 71 were successfully intercepted by Syria’s comically outdated Soviet-era air defense using a 3-decades-old anti-aircraft system with some components in service since the late 1950’s — the night before inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were scheduled to arrive on a ‘fact-finding mission’ in Douma, claimed to target 3 so-called chemical weapons facilities that were previously inspected by the OPCW as recently as 6 months ago and certified free of toxic chemical components.
One targeted facility flattened in the missile strike was actually a pharmaceutical plant that legally manufactured cancer treatments and anti-venom serum, along with other drugs constantly in short supply and badly needed in Syria, whose access to many Western-produced medicines have been blocked by prolonged economic sanctions.
Not once were the following diiscrepancies and skepticisms raised in questioning the Western press: If these targets, lodged within densely-populated urban residential areas, were truly housing extremely hazardous chemical agents, wouldn’t firing missiles upon them put many civilian lives in danger if exposed to toxic chemicals released in the aftermath, and possible environmental contamination from the explosive reaction of heated missiles striking chemical stockpiles? So did the Western coalition strike those targets with the full expectation of a chemical fallout and possible mass casualties? Or were they consciously aware that they were lying to the public about these pharmaceutical and scientific research facilities’ alleged roles in chemical warfare, with the intention of manipulating public opinion in favor of bombing Damascus? Additionally, if the US-UK-France intelligence agencies really possessed evidence that Syria had been secretly amassing chemical weapons since the UN-supervised destruction of its entire chemical arsenal in 2013, why did they not report these alarming revelations to the OPCW as directed within the treaty?
On April 13, the Russian Defense Ministry accused the UK of having directed the staged chemical attack in Douma:
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, released statements by medics from Douma’s hospital who said a group of people toting video cameras entered the hospital, shouting that its patients were struck with chemical weapons and causing panic. The medics said none of the patients were hurt by chemicals.
The people in the video scenes were “rent-a-mob” actors, whom Russian news correspondents in Syria managed to locate and interview on camera. Alexander Kots, a Russian military correspondent with Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP) (pictured below with Hassan Diab from the White Helmets video in bottom right of collage), summarizes the tale of events on April 7 that the boy and his father shared with him:
“They ran to the hospital, where, as soon as he entered, they took off his clothes and immediately started pouring water on him from the hose. For what reason or why it was done, he did not know then. He remembers only that the water was cold, he was cold and very frightened. According to his father, his wife and daughter were also taken to the hospital, and they were likewise hosed down with water, allegedly in order to disinfect the areas damaged from chemical exposure. However, as both Hassan and his father Omar told me, there were no problems with breathing, they had no problems with burns. They were simply asked to move from the bomb shelter to the hospital, where this performance was played out.”
Нашли мальчика, которого 7 апреля заставили участвовать в инсценировке в больнице Думы. «Расплатились» финиками и печеньем. Подробности скоро на сайте КП. pic.twitter.com/rUfLslD805
— Александр Коц (@sashakots) April 18, 2018
English translation of above tweet:
Found a boy who was forced on April 7 to take part in a performance in the Douma hospital. [He was] “paid” in dates and cookies. Details soon on the KP (Komsomolskaya Pravda) site.
Reporters also came across a couple medics filmed in the White Helmets video, and documented their statements on camera (video to the left).
The Russian government claims to have uncovered evidence (which may or may not actually exist, as it has yet to be revealed) incriminating the UK directly to be involved in the staging of the fictitious gas attack:
“Today, the Russian defense ministry has other evidence proving the United Kingdom’s direct involvement in the organization of this provocation in Eastern Ghouta,” [Igor Konashenkov, the ministry’s spokesman] said.
In his words, the discredited White Helmets were pressed by London in a period from April 3 to 6 to hurry up with the implementation of the planned provocation.
“The White Helmets were told that in a period from April 3 to 6 Jaysh al-Islam militants would conduct a series of massive artillery bombings of Damascus. It would provoke a retaliation operation by government forces and the White Helmets were to use it to stage a provocation with an alleged use of chemical weapons,” he said.
On April 18, the Russia 24 TV channel released an exclusive interview (video to the right) with an eleven-year-old Syrian boy named Hassan Diab, who unwittingly participated in the filming of the false-flag chemical attack video in Douma by the White Helmets. In the interview, Hassan tells the reporter that he and his mother heard loud voices on the street, urging everyone to rush to the hospitals. When Hassan entered the hospital, unknown strangers grabbed him and started pouring cold water on him for no reason, then set him down with other soaked children.
“We were in the basement. Mom told me that today we don’t have anything to eat and that we will eat tomorrow. We heard a cry outside, calling “go to the hospital.” We ran to the hospital and as soon as I entered, they grabbed me and started pouring water on me,” Hassan Diab recalled.
Of considerable significance in the Western mainstream press’ coverage of the Syrian civil war is well-renowned, award-winning British war correspondent Robert Fisk’s April 17 report for the Independent from Douma investigating the alleged poison attack. His independent account in particular carries exceptional weight, having built a highly-regarded solid reputation over decades among mainstream and alternative press alike as a very credible, trusted source and Britain’s most important Middle East correspondent, who can be relied upon to honestly and accurately present the naked, unbiased facts to the best of his ability from being there on-the-scene.
Fisk (pictured left in Douma) is notably the first Western journalist to actually reach the area and speak to people on the ground there. Many of the residents questioned by Fisk expressed doubt that any gas attacks had ever occurred at all, and that they “never believed in” the stories of gas attacks they claimed were propagated by the militant jihadi groups occupying the city, which had predominantly merged to form Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam).
Douma residents seemed to consistently regard the very notion of chemical gas attacks with a vague indifference. Fisk appeared to be truly baffled that his “earnest questions about gas were met with what seemed genuine perplexity.”
Fisk attributes special attention to a 58-year old resident, Dr Assim Rahaibani, a senior Syrian doctor employed at the underground clinic that treated alleged victims of what was conveyed as a chemical attack, purportedly conducted by the Syrian government, in the White Helmets video.
Dr Rahaibani cheerfully confirms to Fisk that the video was real, but it didn’t show the effects of a chemical gas attack. Though by his own admission he is not an eyewitness himself, he offers an “extraordinary conclusion” regarding what happened the night of April 7:
“The patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.”
He submitted his own recollection of that night along with his very credible, logical, and reasonable alternative explanation of events:
“I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred meters from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night — but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet’, shouted ‘Gas!’ and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”
Fisk’s account is corroborated by another Western journalist reporting on the scene from Douma (in video to the right): Pearson Sharp, an American journalist for the conservative media outlet, One America News network (OAN). Like Fisk, he also reported that nobody he questioned in Douma, not even a resident of the neighborhood that had supposedly been struck in the alleged gas attack, seemed aware that any chemical weapons had been deployed at all. Additionally, Sharp affirmed that none of the roughly 40 locals he spoke with had approached him initially; he had been the one to randomly instigate contact with all of them from off the streets.
Fisk’s report provides additional strength and credibility to the argument that alternative claims that no chemical attack had occurred were actually quite plausible and should be investigated further, meaning the missile attack on Syria should never have taken place before inspectors were able to thoroughly investigate and report their findings.
Instead, the US-UK-France launched air strikes hours before the OPCW inspectors were due to begin their work in Syria, thereby pre-empting it. At the time the air strikes were initiated, the aggressor states had neither legal nor evidential justification for their indefensible actions. They were were simply relying on the reports of biased parties, like the White Helmets, that have a vested interest in engineering the overthrow of the Damascus government.
As is now widely known beyond any doubt, US and UK leaders purposefully lied to the public about Iraq and about Libya using the same strangely familiar storyline: “Saddam Hussein has WMD’s! He gassed his own people and he’ll do it again! We must invade immediately!” Some years later, it’s “Gaddafi has WMD’s and he’s planning to gas his own people! We must strike immediately!” Now, and a year ago, and in 2013, each time at turning points in the Syrian civil war positioning Assad closer than ever to victory, he always sabotages it with counterproductive illegal attacks on his own people instead of the rebels for no reason at all! So each time it’s been “Assad has WMD’s and he just gassed his own people! We must send in the military to stop him immediately!”
Some of us have been warning for some time that we should be highly skeptical of everything our Western corporate media tells us about Syria and Russia, until it is verified independently by tangible evidence.
All of us have a moral imperative to stop simply believing what our governments and their propagandists in the corporate media tell us, whether we have been doing so involuntarily out of a kneejerk authoritarian impulse or because we stubbornly hold onto some romantic notion that, despite the evidence, our leaders are always the good guys and our violence is always righteous and justified, while their leaders are always the bad guys and their violence is always evil and monstrous.
Sometimes there are no good guys.
Sometimes we are the bad guys.
Former New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer outlines a very plausible reason why the US, UK and France have been so committed to intervention in Syria. It has nothing to do with dramatic humanitarian posturing about children or chemical weapons. It is to prevent the Syrian government and its top ally Russia from triumphing over the militant jihadists, as they have been on the verge of achieving for some time.
These Western state powers are adamantly opposed to allowing any kind of peaceful resolution in Syria, Kinzer observes, because it:
“might allow stability to spread to nearby countries. Today, for the first time in modern history, the governments of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon are on good terms. A partnership among them could lay the foundation for a new Middle East.
“That new Middle East, however, would not be submissive to the United States-Israel-Saudi Arabia coalition. For that reason, we are determined to prevent it from emerging. Better to keep these countries in misery and conflict, some reason, than to allow them to thrive while they defy the United States. […]
“From Washington’s perspective, peace in Syria is the horror scenario. Peace would mean what the United States sees as a ‘win’ for our enemies: Russia, Iran, and the Assad government. We are determined to prevent that, regardless of the human cost.”