the home of online investigations

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the following link:

Emails And Reading Comprehension: OPCW Douma Coverage Misses Crucial Facts

November 25, 2019

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Over the weekend, WikiLeaks released an email from an employee within the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) indicating that the OPCW “misrepresents the facts he and his colleagues discovered on the ground”. This email has since been used to call into question the impartiality and effectiveness of the OPCW’s conclusion about the alleged chemical weapon attack in Douma, Syria.

However, a comparison of the points raised in the letter against the final Douma report makes it amply clear that the OPCW not only addressed these points, but even changed the conclusion of an earlier report to reflect the concerns of said employee.

Which Report?

Unusually, in the case of the Douma attack, the OPCW issued two reports. The first was an interim report of 26 pages published on 6 July 2018. The second was a final report of 106 pages, published on 1 March 2019.

The letter released by Wikileaks, dated 22 June 2018, raises concerns about a “redacted report”. The points raised in the letter are clearly not present in the interim report; however, they are present, or else are in modified form, in the final report. Therefore, it appears that the so-called “redacted report” provided a basis or early draft for the final report.

Points Raised By The Letter

Point 1

This wording used in the letter is not present in the final report. The paragraph that matches this most closely in the final report is paragraph 2.16, which states, “it is possible that the cylinders were the source of the substances containing reactive chlorine.” 

The decision to use the word “possible” in the final report is a significant change from the word “likely”, as it represents the level of confidence of the OPCW. By changing this particular phrase, the OPCW have in fact downgraded their confidence in possible conclusions about this event, which is in line with the employee’s concerns.

Point 2.1

Aside from the absurdity of claiming that “singling out chlorine gas” after an alleged chlorine gas attack in a country where multiple chlorine attacks have taken place is “disingenuous”, these points appear to have been addressed by the final report.

Paragraphs 8.6 – 8.19 in the final report include a “Discussion of analysis results”, which addresses the points raised in this paragraph of the letter, including explaining why many of the chemicals listed in this part of the letter could be excluded. It should be noted that this section is chemistry-heavy. 

Point 2.2

The final report does not use the phrase “reactive chlorine containing chemical.” Instead, the phrase “chemical containing reactive chlorine” is used, as suggested in the letter. 

Point 3

The final report does not include this mention of the gas being released from cylinders. As highlighted in Point 1, the final report concludes that it is “possible” the cylinders were the source of substances containing reactive chlorine.

Point 4

At no point does the final report describe the levels of various chlorinated organic derivatives as “high”. However, it does note in paragraph 7 of Annex 4 that these derivatives exist in the natural background, and that control samples were collected at locations not expected to have been exposed to chlorine gas for comparison.

Point 5

The final report includes a discussion of symptoms, along with an Epidemiological Analysis addressing these issues, on page 25.

It is also notable that the final report consulted “four toxicologists and one toxicologist and medical doctor” (paragraph 8.87) rather than the three toxicologists mentioned in the letter. It also notes in Annex 3 that further consultations with toxicologists took place in September and October 2018, months after this letter was written.

It should also be noted that the final report also states that the FFM redeployed to conduct further interviews between 14-22 October.

Point 6

Although it is not precisely clear what the letter is referring to here, the final report devotes extensive and detailed discussion to the modelling of the impact of the two cylinders in pages 53-64. Three independent analyses by experts in three different countries were carried out, and all reached complimentary conclusions: the damage at the impact sites is consistent with the cylinders having fallen from height (Annex 12).

It should also be noted that the engineering studies were only received by the FFM in December 2018, well after the date of this letter. As such, any discussion about the point of impact on the date of this letter would have been superseded by the studies which came later. 

Point 7


The final report contains an extensive bibliography, including peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Conclusion

Although this letter appears to be at least superficially damaging to the OPCW, after reading the actual reports published by the OPCW it is clear that this letter is outdated and inapplicable to the final Douma report. 

The letter refers to a “redacted report” that was either not published or was heavily updated before it became the final version of  the report. The issues raised in the letter appear to have either been addressed with further work and research, or changed to reflect the concerns of the employee who wrote the letter. 

The fact that the redacted report stated it was “likely” the cylinders were the source of the chlorine or reactive chlorine-containing chemical, while the final report said it was “possible that the cylinders were the source of the substances containing reactive chlorine” is significant. It demonstrates that the OPCW in fact downgraded their confidence in their conclusions in order to include the doubts raised by the author of the letter.

Based on this analysis, it is clear that WikiLeaks, the Daily Mail, La Repubblica, and Stundin have failed to understand the context of this letter and the final Douma report. 

If the people covering this story had actually taken the time to read the letter and the FFM reports, they may well have chosen to publicize it in a very different manner. 

Bellingcat Investigation Team

The Bellingcat Investigation Team is an award winning group of volunteers and full time investigators who make up the core of the Bellingcat's investigative efforts.

Join the Bellingcat Mailing List:

Enter your email address to receive a weekly digest of Bellingcat posts, links to open source research articles, and more.

133 Comments

  1. Sean Lamb

    A long and unintentionally funny twitter thread from DDtea/Iridium Tea currently being promoted by the Bellingcat crowd

    https://twitter.com/iridium_tea/status/1200543847274762241

    Once you strip away all the scientific handwaving, there is absolutely nothing that conflicts with the whistle-blower. Let me quote the relevant passage.

    ” The only evidence available at this moment is that some samples collected at Locations 2 and 4 were in contact with one or more chemicals that contain a reactive chlorine atom. Such chemicals could include molecular chlorine, phosgene, cyanogen chloride, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen chloride or sodium hypochlorite (the major ingredient of household chlorine-based bleach). Purposely singling out chlorine gas as one of the possibilities is disingenuous. ”

    Disingenous is the operative word here, because the same person here quoted an article about a worker dying after being exposed to chlorine gas being liberated from household bleach. Of course, generally household bleach doesn’t liberate toxic quantities of chlorine gas, but since we are dealing with trace contaminants of 1 or 2 parts per billion then, the whistleblower is suggesting, there is nothing to suggest that these minute quantities couldnt be produced by micro-chemical reactions in response to household bleach.

    It would be like if after someone died of cancer, you pulled out a geiger counter and detected some radiation in the room and shouted “Aha! Clearly this cancer was caused by environmental radiation.” No one disputes radiation can cause cancer, no one disputes the chlorine gas can form chlorinated organic compounds; what you need to show is the radiation detected is an abnormal quantities above and beyond background level, ditto with chlorinated organic compounds.

    However, one of the properties of Chlorine gas is that in response to an aqueous surface – like the eyeball – it will react with water to form hydrochloric acid, which causes immediate pain and irritation to the eyes.

    That is why the fact the eyeballs of the victims being so clearly white and non-inflammed and so clearly not affected by acid, allows us to confidently rule out chlorine gas as the cause of their death.

    Reply
  2. Sean Lamb

    Denialists, of course, will simply abandon one rhetorical position and slip seamlessly to another.

    Alleged lattice markings: for example
    https://twitter.com/EliotHiggins/status/1201144180531245058

    Of course it is entirely usual for gas cylinders to wrapped in mesh protectors during periods of transport.

    https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcSANuxMC3VwwDQts5dxR4yMIsJ8I_r6zPyAEuZWGlShRqJKKRKl

    But why acknowledge such a simple explanation when you can fantasize about cylinders hurtling through the air crashing through balcony railings?

    I do, however, want to treat all Bellingcat-ers with compassion and sympathy. Ever since Le Mesurier ….ummmm…fell off a balcony it is easy to imagine the cold churning fear that must be gripping their stomachs.

    I can promise all Bellingcat-ers that if they need to claim asylum there are a couple of apartments free in Edward Snowden’s building. Send me a post card SOS to Sean Lamb c/o The Lubyanka Building.

    If you are in the UK there is little we can do, but if you can make your way to Amsterdam I think we will be able to successfully exfiltrate to Moscow and safety

    Reply
      • Eliot Higgins

        You’ve provided two examples of lattices much smaller than the markings on the canister on the balcony, so maybe try to find one that matches exactly and you’ve got a point. Also, are you suggesting the metal debris that was found at the impact site and matched the lattice markings perfectly are mesh protecters?

        Reply
        • dick

          Does it actually matter in the big picture
          Highly trained impartial scientists on site determined that the cylinders were more likely to have been manually placed than to have been dropped from a height.
          It would be a great idea for the OPCW leadership to allow these FFM team members the platform they have requested to set out their original findings.
          Perhaps you, a layman could question them from the floor
          Why are you so attached to your report that you cannot stomach the thought of being wrong?
          Why not gracefully admit that you were mistaken?
          Because it would cast all your cherry picked open source investigations in to disrepute?
          https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2018/04/11/open-source-survey-alleged-chemical-attacks-douma-7th-april-2018/

          Reply
          • dick

            To Jeroen
            Thats the report the FFM team says totally misrepresents their findings
            Keep up buddy

          • Servus

            dick, you are cherry picking,
            One OPCW expert says that to him manual placement of the cylinders is more probable, while the final OPCW report states that 3 independent ballistic experts teams came into conclusion that the cylinders were airdropped.

            This is also a conclusion of the Forensics Architects simulation published by Bellingcat.

            In a previous exchange I’ve showed that you have fabricated some accusations, apparently you continue to manipulate , your credibility is bottom low.

            Experts disagree, discuss , argue and eventually create a consensus, this is a normal process. Picking a piece of larger, partial discussion is misleading.

          • Servus

            Ok dick, you don’t have to read all pages full of letters , a piece that might marginally interest you:

            “With regard to the ballistics data collected by the FFM [fact-finding mission], they were analysed by three external experts commissioned by the FFM, and working independently from one another. In the end, while using different methods and instruments, they all reached the same conclusions that can be found in the FFM final report.”« 

            At your service

        • JustPassingThrough

          When FA modelled the lattice, they missed the part still attached to the wall and put it in the wrong place:

          https://youtu.be/AOUsl_MuccM?t=29
          https://youtu.be/BqfguOJyIyI?t=1291

          If the theory is that the cylinder smashes nose first through the roof corner, what is the trajectory of the cylinder to then hit the mesh “perpendicularly”? The FFM also says it is not clear whether the mesh “had been demolished prior” (Annex6#4), if the frame was already destroyed what is the trajectory to hit the mesh horizontally but also hit the balcony nose down? It doesn’t make sense, as if the “visual damage” sentence was added later. Did any Bellingcat-related experts contribute?

          Did anyone ever verify via satellite photos that the damage to the roof corner didn’t exist already? Annex6#6 says the inspectors never went up onto the roof.

          The cylinder is lying next to the broken ends of the mesh and was definitely moved, so another explanation is that when the cylinder was rolled around it was scratched.

          Reply
          • Servus

            “The cylinder is lying next to the broken ends of the mesh and was definitely moved, so another explanation is that when the cylinder was rolled around it was scratched.”

            The cylinders are made of very resistant steel, typically carbon steel (sa516gr60/76 or similar) with the typical 6mm thick walls for this cylinder size, some even with MO-CO steel.
            Highly unlikely that one can scratch such cylinder by rolling around.
            And, well imagine the precision of such rotative movements (in both directions) in order to create a nice, regular lattice with perpendicular crossings at even distances… It’s as likely as Mr Hitches admitting errors.

            Why you propagandists can not stick to the message delivered by Mr Assad “There are two possibilities, either jihadists did it or it did not happen at all.”

          • JustPassingThrough

            Servus – I am not a “propagandist”, are you saying the ends of the broken mesh cannot scratch the paint off? Was it your model of the mesh? How was it determined to be an ‘imprint’ and not a scratch?

          • Servus

            “How was it determined to be an ‘imprint’ and not a scratch?”

            I can only comment how this looks to me.

            Let assume that the scratches were done by moving the cylinder.
            The scratches form a very regular lattice patter of several parallel straight lines, oblique to the cylinder axis. There are two sets of lines perpendicular to each other, forming a perfect squares at distances that happen to match exactly the mesh’s squares..
            Imagine how the cylinder would need to be moved to create such pattern ?
            It maybe difficult to do so one could model it with, a paper tube and a pencil or a cucumber and a knife. In order to create an oblique but straight line, the cylinder must move forward with constant speed and rotate with constant speed. In order to create a straight perpendicular line, one would need to move it back or rather carry it back or it woukd get scratched again, and then move forward again and rotate in the opposite direction, with exactly the same forward and rotation speeds as before or the crossings would not be at right angels, and all these precision movements are to be carried out with a 100kg metallic cylinder, a highly unlikely scenario.
            There should be also some sharp, hard and pointed object to make the scratches or dents, disposed at regular distances.
            The scratches are also very “clean” and uncover the underlying metal that subsequently corroded heavily most likely in contact with the chemical agent dispersed by the cylinder. I doubt that scratching paint of the cylinders would result in such perfect lines.

            The explanation given by FFM is straight forward, the cylinder fell under a “wide” angle, close to flat through the mesh, the mesh hit the cylinder (at high speed things tend do be very hard) and created the lattice pattern and stripped the harness with the fins and wheels.
            No obscure assumptions needed.

          • JustPassingThrough

            With respect, the FFM doesn’t give an explanation at all and “exact” matches are your assumption. There is only the one public image of the cylinder before it was moved (image is flipped horizontally)

            https://static01.nyt.com/newsgraphics/2018/05/15/douma-ar/09aa3a31b95d7c22b7a1a5283c0bcf8ad44a987c/3_dent/cam_23.jpeg

            The scratches should be on this side, perhaps Bellingcat/NYT/anyone could release any of these earliest images or videos rather than referring to images of the cylinder after it had been moved.

          • JustPassingThrough

            The facts are:

            Nobody scientifically determined the scratches to be an ‘imprint’
            The FFM fig. A6.2 states the visible damage is only “likely” from the mesh – they haven’t definitively linked the two
            The FFM is uncertain whether the frame was intact
            For the FFM to then assert that the cylinder definitely hit the mesh is a contradiction of the previous 2 points
            Nobody knows how the cylinder was moved – the mesh has many broken ends, many directions, your assumptions about what needs to be done to create the scratches are just that: assumptions
            The FFM conclude nothing about the harness and fins as (annex6#10) “the metal frame and fins, visible on the terrace in videos, were missing at the time of the FFM visit”

          • Servus

            “, your assumptions about what needs to be done to create the scratches are just that: assumptions”

            Correct, and highly improbable ones this is why this “moving and scratching” hypothesis doesnot make sense, glad you understood that.

            Please have a look at the initial NYT reportig and it’s videos or other early reports and photos and you will find the fins.

            FFM report:
            “Observed Changes to the Scene

            – the metal frame and fins, visible on the terrace in videos, were missing at the time of the FFM visit.”

            The war criminals had two weeks between the attack and the time OPCW was allowed on site to modify the crime scene.

          • Servus

            correction :

            “The war criminals had two weeks to modify the crime scene, between the attack and the time OPCW was allowed on site .

          • JustPassingThrough

            Considering both cylinders were documented before Russia ever arrived and journalists were allowed to visit with the fins still present and Nasr Hanan living in the building, what do you propose was altered?

            The FFM isn’t NYT/Forensic Architecture but ok, if anyone actually wants to honestly check the FA video:

            https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=60
            FA show the cylinder dimensions as 1.5 x 0.35m
            FFM A.7.6 “140 x 35cm”

            https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=444
            FA show bedroom ceiling hole dimensions as 1.6 x 0.7m
            FFM A.7.6 “166 x 105cm”
            https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=462 shows the hole is completely wrong:
            https://youtu.be/z1T8HZYv_ZE?t=206

            https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=480
            FA shows a frame from Bilal Abu Salah’s video from April 8 https://twitter.com/1BilalAbuSalah/status/982956657624911873
            For unknown reasons, it says “09/04/2018 12:21:39” in the top left and they go on to claim the cylinder is covered in frost
            FFM A.7.8 “The cylinder appears to have been cleaned. The layer of a white powder seen in the videos was not present when the FFM team visited the location.”
            Note in FA’s real frost AJ example video it appears on the underside, one side of the bit of wood beneath the cylinder is still covered in the dust (not frost) here:
            https://youtu.be/z1T8HZYv_ZE?t=264

            https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=153
            FA show 2 locations for the mesh (they are not quite sure!) and haven’t modelled the frame part still connected to the wall (as above)

            https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=270
            FA say the nose of the canister is discoloured.. caused by acid created when chlorine reacts with water
            The cylinder still has this discolouration in the FFM’s photos but they do not mention this supposed ‘smoking gun’ evidence instead mentioning in Annex6#9 the “blackened sooty walls” and ceiling of the room below and that a “fire had been lit in the room after the alleged incident”
            https://cdni.rt.com/media/pics/2018.04/original/5ade2799d43750cf548b459d.jpg

            https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=308
            FA “confirm dimensions” of the “grid” but the texture on their cylinder visibly does not match the hole in the bottom of their cylinder model:
            https://imgur.com/uY6YesO
            At https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=82 the video fades between their model and the real mesh: you can see clearly on the left side that it doesn’t resemble the actual mesh at all:
            https://imgur.com/BAHl4vc

            https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=392
            FA claim the cylinder with no valve is covered in frost 2.5 hours after the 7:30pm attack
            (NYT tell us that video was at 10:06pm https://youtu.be/P2X84JZINcI?t=469 )
            Recorded temperature for those 2.5 hours was 27 dropping to 22°C
            https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/syria/damascus/historic?month=4&year=2018 (scroll down to select the 7th, link doesn’t work)
            https://imgur.com/D8UTkYg
            See SNHR for another reading:
            http://sn4hr.org/wp-content/pdf/english/Additional_Evidences_and_Investigations_Prove_that_the_Syrian_Regime_en.pdf
            “According to worldweatheronline, the average temperature was 24 Celsius in Damascus city on April 7”
            “moderate and relatively high temperatures which Syria recorded in those days”

            https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=331
            FA says the run-off pattern is from melting frost
            But before the cylinder was ever turned over, rain was recorded at 11am on April 8 https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/syria/damascus/historic?month=4&year=2018 (scroll down to select the 8th, link doesn’t work)
            https://imgur.com/cTgZdY0
            The drops of water can be seen on the frame in the first public video of the balcony April 8
            https://youtu.be/qxogcgHtAFQ?t=39

            So no, I’m not very impressed by their investigation.

          • Servus

            « Considering both cylinders were documented before Russia ever arrived and journalists were allowed to visit with the fins still present and Nasr Hanan living in the building, what do you propose was altered?« 

            In the FFM final report there Is a section about alterations to the crime scene.
            Why do you ask trivial question you can easily find answers for yourself?

            Discussing with you is like chipping silex or explaining division with a rest for special care children.

          • JustPassingThrough

            I *know* I’ve quoted it repeatedly, I was asking what *you* specifically thought they had altered to ‘cover up’. Things are moved between videos filmed before Russia ever got there.

            “Discussing with you is like chipping silex or explaining division with a rest for special care children.”

            Grow up.

            Bellingcat – why let your comments descend into babyish attempts at insults and rubbish like Servus’.

          • Servus

            So, you know the answers to your questions. Next time just write the answers and ask for questions.

        • Servus

          Youri,
          One expert, and not an engineering team. Several other independent experts concluded that all physical evidence supports conclusions of an airdropped cylinder.
          Analysis of alternative suggestion shows that it’s unrealistic, not physically feasible and contradicted by the evidence on site.

          If you seriously interested in the subject, which I doubt, read the OPCW final report.

          Reply
          • dick

            Lying agin Huh?
            It was the whole team’s conclusion, not just the whistleblower’s
            The whistleblower pointed out that the final report distorted their findings, and came to the opposite conclusion that they had
            As to other “experts”, they weren’t there on the ground, so their findings carry little weight
            But keep on bloviating to your heart’s content

          • SorryViennese

            Dear Servus,
            I asked you already (I think 2 days ago) if you have read the engineering report, as presented by WikiLeaks. We should discuss the physical facts presented in this report. And beside, of course the reporteur engaged also others to perfom tests and consulted further experts on explosive, etc. as it is done usually when providing evidence. So an “engineering” team was of course engaged.

            Thus your method of adding up heads and derive from it the truth it futile in this case. It could also be turned against you, as 20 OPCW experts seem to contradict their boss, who, of course, defends the misleading final reports conclusions about “who placed the gas-cylinders”, according to the Dec. 14th 2019 Leak. So as it is 20:1, the truth is 20 fold on the whistleblowers side, by following your head-count-truth-establishment-mechanism.

            Alas, lets discusss the contents of the engineering report.
            KR, and in hope for an specific answer to this request soon, yours SorryViennese

          • Servus

            Hi,
            Yes I know the report but for the moment I’m too busy to do some serious analysis work on it,
            But I’ll come back to it when I’m back from holidays.

  3. Jeroen

    Syrian governement helicopters dropping explosive and chemical ordnance on Syrian towns and civilians have been so well documented since at least 2013, that anybody denying this should be met with apropriate suspicion.

    Sharing some links, lots and lots of information any serious concerned ciitizen will find him or herself.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22551892
    29 April 2013 Saraqeb

    August 2016, Aleppo
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37049555

    About the effects of chlorine.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/37295926/the-effects-of-using-chlorine-as-a-weapon

    It must be great to talk to your grandchildren when you are finally grown up.
    Granddad what did you do “in the war”?
    Oh I was promoting disinformation and whitewashing (Assadist and others) war crimes.
    And making fun about pushing investigative journalists, citizens and humanitarian workers of balconies. Or even doing that yourself?

    They will be so proud.

    Reply
      • Servus

        Reports of poisoning of civilians with weaponized chlorine are hilarious?

        In your propaganda zeal you are losing a send of proportion, this is not serious.

        … and read the report you have referenced to, somewhat it makes sens to know what you discuss about.

        Reply
        • dick

          Thats the report YOU referenced,Servus, the one the FFM team has issues with .
          Rest assured, there was no weaponised chlorine.

          Reply
          • Servus

            This is getting funny, in your earlier reply you provided a link to the OPCW final report. I have mentioned that and now you say you didn’t make that reference

            Really not so important but adds to the impression of not being serious.

          • MisterP

            “Servus” now you also write that it is getting funny… are you losing a sense of proportion as well? please calm down, dont lose your nerve, its difficult I know.

  4. Servus

    There are couple of ways to debunk/analyse a conspiracy theory, one quite effective is to hypothesise that the theory is real and list all physical, technical, organisational, timing and economical (etc) conditions for it to happen and asses how likely these are.
    Then one can also look at how likely it is that the conspiracy can be kept secret, If a lot of people are involved or knowledgeable about it and have to keep the secret for a long the time, it becomes likely that somebody will break the silence,

    The political, physical, technical and organisational aspects of the hypothetical false flag operation were analysed in an excellent blog post :

    https://feitoffake.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/a-douma-chemical-attack-false-flag-scenario-does-not-make-sense-at-all-here-is-why/

    The bottom line is that for the listed reasons, such hypothetical false flag operation is highly unlikely and it can be ruled out,

    To this analysis I would add that the cylinders in the two location would need to be deformed and this is a very difficult task. The cylinders are made of high quality resistant steel, typical wall thicknessers is 6 mm, , the jihadists would need to have a powerful hydraulic press for the task, dropping the cylinders from say 5 floors would hardly dent it. And the deformations would need to match the damage to the buildings and the cylinders planned trajectory, so that the subsequent simulations would conform a drop from few hundred meters. Its totally unrealistic, the need of specialised equipment and incredible ballistic competence rules out this possibility.

    Lets have a look at possibility of keeping such hypothetical false flag operation secret,

    How many jihadist would need to be involved, there are two locations, both would need to be guarded for some time, day and night, lets say 5 guys per location,
    There would need to be a team that demolishes the buildings and creates all the in ceilings, roof, etc, they would need to carry all the equipment upstairs and work few days, lets say 5 guys, another 5-10 would be involved in all logistics, providing the equipment and know about the project. There would be also a planning team of higher ranking jihadists, maybe 5-10 guys. So, there would be roughly 30-50 jihadists involved in planning and killing 43 local people, not necessarily hostile to them, including 25 children. It is possible that some of them would not like what has happened and would eventually talk.
    In every building we can assume 4-5 floors with 9 apartments each, with roughly 3 adults per apartment, it makes roughly 50 adults that lived at both locations. They must have been aware of the jihadist doing the demolition work, evicting the families living in the target apartments and guarding the sites, One can assume that another 50 people would visit them during this time, extended family and friends, Neighbours would see the logistics and talk to inhabitants about strange construction work,
    So another 50-100 people would know about the preparations,
    And out of these 150-200 people nobody told the journalists about anything suspicious happening in the apartments that eventually dispersed the chemical agent? People connect dots very fast and some would thing that the secret activity in these two apartments preceding the attack would be somewhat connected to the chemical attack, Nothing like that transpires from the witnesses,
    Russian journalists claimed that “here they brought in the cannister” but in early reports had no witnesses to support that,

    It would have been impossible to keep such a hypothetical false flag operation secret, some people would talk about suspect activities prior to attack, but they did not.

    This is yet another argument that the hypothetical false flag operation is a propaganda fabrication.

    Reply
    • SorryViennese

      Dear Servus,
      obviously you did not read the ingeneering report on the dropping of the Gas Cylinders, the (im)possible tractory an the hole in the ceiling not fitting to a dropped cylinder staying then comfortably in the kingsize marriage bed.
      It is not about how the cylinder looks like, it is about gravity, trectories, resistance of concrete ceiling and so on. All quite Newtonian science.
      And it is very clear the cylinders were not dropped to the place from high above, but placed … that is the on of the critical core argumentations lines: Who placed the gas thing there.
      Not talking about it, is obfuscation, dear Servus. And your credibility is undermined severly in my eyes. So it was, what generally is called false flag operation, performed by the rebells in their territories at the time of the incident. Alas, just the contrary what you state, as final sentence above.

      Reply
        • SorryViennese

          Dear Servus.
          Your answer is creating fog and distraction, and is false. Of course I have read the report, AND THEN asked you to address it´s main argument (see above ):
          To repeat it for clarity (Argument A1)
          A1) That the claimed trajectory of the gas cylinder and the condition of the cylinder itself is impossible by physical laws. Thus the cylinder was not dropped from any aircract, but placed by “hand” in the kingsize bed, as visible in the pictures published by the rebells, immediately after the chemical incident had happened.
          So this is the main argument, for more details we shall quote from the report by numbering the page and paragraph we refer to.
          Please answer specifically.

          Reply
    • GRU

      >It would have been impossible to keep such a hypothetical false flag operation secret

      Did you ever heard about 2003 “Iraq WMD” fraud by Bush, CIA, StateDep and Blaire ?

      Reply
      • Servus

        What is your point? Was this conspiration kept secret long time? Do you still believe in it ?
        I never did and trusted OPCW and Hans Blixt.

        Reply
    • Pi

      right, servus, jihadists used people as human shilds, surely they would not harm them in their apartments, what a waste would that be

      Reply
  5. Jeroen

    Very well explained Servus.

    Every well thinking person will understand what you explained.

    You will not convince those people fond of conspiration theories and thinking.
    You will not convince pro Assad/syrian governement parties, except from all military, secret police or governement and state people who were involved.
    But the truth will come out, because people like cellphones and do film dropping bombs or cylinders from helikopters.
    Wikileaks will find them. Or others.
    Like the New York Times proves which bombings are done by Russian or by Syrian aircraft including on hospitals, towns, civilian homes.

    Last convincing will not work for paid or volunteer trolls knowingly or subconciously working for some state troll program.
    Every reader here can easily jugde who is a troll, the more trolls “troll” the easier ordinary people learn to judge and discriminate.

    Reply
  6. rna_errors

    Servus – I suppose it makes more sense that Assad’s twisted psyche finds enjoyment through secretly dropping chemical weapons on random (already decimated) targets than for a third party invested in maintaining persistent war in the region to have dropped, rolled, carried or otherwise placed inert devices in the buildings and driven a story via media outlets? You cannot believe that it would be difficult to pay a few people to be interviewed for an ‘exercise’ documentary or otherwise be duped into providing testimony that to them is helping a noble cause? This is done all of the time in U.S. during public disaster exercises for example, or military exercises with civilian actors.

    Nevermind any of the past proofs of western powers using similar incidents to further their agendas. Britam Defense’s email hack where it was first reported U.S. and U.K. were planning the first chemical weapons release in Syria comes to mind and should be the first consideration in these situations. How likely is it that a media conscious ruler like Assad would not give consideration to the regional and global implications of exercising this sick thrill (surely there are no tactical or strategic motivations for these random attacks attributed to Syria’s legal government) or would dismiss the consequences while being under the scrutiny of the entire planet?

    The little guys in the world have no power to bend the narrative their way even in their own area of influence, while the west exerts this power daily. Again, who is more likely to believe they will ‘get away’ with such an act?

    Assad is no angel and in fact may be a brutal dictator, etc. etc. So what? We support those as they serve our interests and not a moment more. Saudi Arabi currently is one of the more openly brutal regimes in the region and as such the U.S. is prosecuting a war for the people of Saudi Arabi! NO? What? Again, reality does not jive with your rosy view of things.

    Finally, I return to the point about purpose. Motive is often critical in criminal cases and this is nothing less than a criminal act. Who has a solid motive? Assad? What does the act gain him? What does the act gain him if he then vehemently denies this on the world stage? If anything it only strengthens opposition abroad AND at home where he is fighting for control of the country. So this in fact is antithetical to his goals of restoring his order and maintaining power in Syria. I think we can agree this is actually a negative motive, yes?

    Western powers would gain what from this incident? Continued emotional support for prosecuting war in Syria; same for financial support; justification for deeper involvement; UN blessing to further invest troops and firepower into conflict, etc. etc. Western powers make lots of money from these efforts as well so disregarding the obvious political and strategic value of occupying Syria financial reward is to be had regardless of the outcome of the Syrian conflict. These alone appear to be strong motivational influences for western countries that have demonstrated the same behavior all over the world and fully believe they are untouchable (they will remain nameless here lol) to stage an act such as this. The reported forensics and eyewitness testimony combined with the early videos and statements by all involved only strengthen this conclusion.

    have a nice day

    Reply
    • Richard

      I do not know how many times I have read the specious argument that the use of prohibited chemical warfare materials doesn’t bring anything at all for Assad and his criminal regime. If you really followed the time line, then the one uncontested fact is that they use these weapons, which they know could force reactions in the world, when they want to prove a point that resistance is futile and no-one will come to the aid of the repressed population. Just do some research on time line and when besieged resistance groups have capitulated. This has been documented so many times by others that I am still shocked that it isn’t common knowledge. The best defence of the resistance in Idlib is information. When people know, Assad becomes more hesitant. As a corollary the spreading of propaganda directly helps Assad and his thugs.

      Reply
      • Albert Noniem

        ¨The best defence of the resistance in Idlib is information.”
        Yet, at least parts of the “resistance in Idlib” kill journalists. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham doesn’t like information.

        Reply
    • Servus

      Typical, lots of words and only generalities, opinions and wild assumptions. On can not discuss with such a mess.
      Read the OPCW final report if you want to discuss any specific point, this is the starting point.

      Reply
  7. Jeroen

    If Saudi Arabia commits state crimes, war crimes, kills journaliste or other acts against humanism they should be exposed and held accountable and those responsible prosecuted.

    The same counts for
    USA
    China
    Rossiya
    Syria
    and all others

    The comments here should adress those responsabile and involved into the Douma chemical attack or its cover up.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the following link:

TRUST IN JOURNALISM - IMPRESS