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Will Get Fooled Again – Seymour Hersh, Welt, and the Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack

June 25, 2017

By Eliot Higgins

Translations: Русский

On June 25th 2017 the German newspaper, Welt, published the latest piece by Seymour Hersh, countering the “mainstream” narrative around the April 4th 2017 Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack in Syria. The attack, where Sarin was allegedly used against the local population, dropped in a bomb by the Syrian Air Force, resulted in President Trump taking the decision to launch cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase.

As with his other recent articles, Hersh presented another version of events, claiming the established narrative was wrong. And, as with those other recent articles, Hersh based his case on a tiny number of anonymous sources, presented no other evidence to support his case, and ignored or dismissed evidence that countered the alternative narrative he was trying to build.

This isn’t the first chemical attack in Syria which Hersh has presented a counter-narrative for, based on a handful of anonymous sources. In his lengthy articles for the London Review of Books, “Whose sarin?” and “The Red Line and the Rat Line”, Hersh made the case that the August 21st 2013 Sarin attack in Damascus was in fact a false flag attack intended to draw the US into the conflict with Syria. This claim fell apart under real scrutiny, and relied heavily on ignoring much of the evidence around the attacks, an ignorance of the complexities of producing and transporting Sarin, and a lack of understanding about facts firmly established about the attacks.

With Hersh’s latest article, this pattern of behaviour is repeated. The vast majority of the article appears to be based on an anonymous source, described as “a senior adviser to the American intelligence community, who has served in senior positions in the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency”. As with his earlier articles, details of the attack as described by his source flies in the face of all other evidence presented by a range of other sources.

So what scenario does Hersh’s source describe, and how does this contradict other claims? Hersh claims that “Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives”, and this attack resulted in the release of chemicals, including chlorine, but not Sarin, that produced the mass casualty event seen on April 4th. Hersh’s source is able to provide a great deal of information about the target, claiming intel on the location was shared with the Americans ahead of the attack.

Hersh’s source describes the building as a “two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town”, with a basement containing “rockets, weapons and ammunition, as well as products that could be distributed for free to the community, among them medicines and chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial”. According to Hersh’s source, the floor above was “an established meeting place” and “a long-time facility that would have had security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.”

The source goes on to claim that Russia had been watching the location carefully, establishing its use as a Jihadi meeting place, and watching the location with a “drone for days”, confirming its use and the activity around the building. According to the source the target was then hit at 6:55am on April 4th, and a Bomb Damage Assessment by the US military determined that a Syrian 500lb bomb “triggered  a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground.”

At this point it’s worth taking a look at the claims the Syrian and Russian governments made in response to accusations that Syria had dropped Sarin on Khan Sheikhoun. Walid Muallem, Syria’s Foreign Minister, stated in a press conference two days after the attack that the first air raid was conducted at 11:30am local time, attacking “an arms depot belonging to al-Nusra Front chemical weapons”. It was noted by observers at the time the time of the claimed attack was hours after the first reports of casualties came in, and both contradicts the 6:55am stated by Hersh’s source, and the slightly earlier time provided by the Pentagon, approximately between 6:37am and 6:46am local time. Not only that, but the Syrian Foreign Minister also described the target as a chemical weapons arm depot, not a meeting place that stored other items in the basement.

The Pentagon’s map of the flight path of the aircraft that attacked Khan Sheikhoun

Russia also published their own claims about the attack. Sputnik reported the following:

“According to Konashenkov, on Tuesday “from 11.30 to 12.30, local time, [8.30 to 9.30 GMT] Syrian aircraft conducted an airstrike in the eastern outskirts of Khan Shaykhun on a large warehouse of ammunition of terrorists and the mass of military equipment”.

Konashenkov said that from this warehouse, chemical weapons’ ammunition was delivered to Iraq by militants.

Konashenkov added that there were workshops for manufacturing bombs, stuffed with poisonous substances, on the territory of this warehouse. He noted that these munitions with toxic substances were also used by militants in Syria’s Aleppo.”

These claims are consistent with the claims of their Syrian ally, but not the claims made by Hersh and his source. In the face of allegations of chemical weapon use neither Russia nor Syria mention targeting “a jihadist meeting site”, and described the location as a “large warehouse” on the “eastern outskirts of Khan Shaykhun”, not a “two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town” with “security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.” In fact, the only thing Hersh’s account and the Russian and Syria account agrees on is it was a Syrian aircraft which conducted the attack.

In addition to this, neither Syria nor Russia presented any evidence to support their claim. If, as Hersh claims, Russia had been observing the site with a “drone for days” then they would not only have the precise location of the site, but footage of the site. However, both Syria and Russia have failed to make any imagery of the site public, nor have they provided any specific details about the location of the site. If they had, it would be possible to easily check if the location had been bombed on Terraserver, which has satellite imagery of Khan Sheikhoun before and after the date of attack. In common with Russia and Syria, Hersh’s source seems unable to provide the exact location of the attack, despite his apparent in depth knowledge of the attack.

Ignoring the fact that the version of events presented by Hersh runs counter to narratives produced by all sides, the claims around the chemical exposure are also worth examining. Hersh refers to “a Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military” of the strike, which he provides no source for, which supposedly states “a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement”. He describes the symptoms seen in victims as “consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.” Here it is worth pointing out that organophosphates are used as pesticides, not fertilizers, and it’s unclear if this error is from Hersh himself or his anonymous source. This is not the only factual error in the report, with Hersh stating an SU-24 was used in the attack, not an SU-22 as claimed by every other source, including the US government.

Despite Hersh’s apparent belief Sarin was not used in the attack, other sources disagree, not least the OPCW, tasked to investigate the attack. On April 19th 2017 the OPCW published a statement by Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü describing the results of the analysis of samples taken from victims of the attack, both living and dead, stating:

“The results of these analyses from four OPCW designated laboratories indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance. While further details of the laboratory analyses will follow, the analytical results already obtained are incontrovertible.”

A later report from the OPCW, dated May 19th, provided further analysis of samples from the site, including dead animals recovered from the site, and environmental samples. Signs of Sarin or Sarin-like substances were detected in many samples, as well as Sarin degradation products, and at least two samples which state Sarin itself was detected.

Annex 3 of the May 19th OPCW report

These results are also consistent with intelligence published by the French government, which describes the following:

“The analyses carried out by French experts on the environmental samples collected at one of the impact points of the chemical attack at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017 reveal the presence of sarin, of a specific secondary product (diisopropyl methylphosphonate – DIMP) formed during synthesis of sarin from isopropanol and DF (methylphosphonyl difluoride), and hexamine. Analysis of biomedical samples also shows that a victim of the Khan Sheikhoun attack, a sample of whose blood was taken in Syria on the very day of the attack, was exposed to sarin.”

Based on this and other reports, multiple sources state Sarin was used in the attack, despite Hersh’s narrative of an accidental chemical release. The fact Hersh does not refer to any of these reports seems to, at best, overlook key information about the nature of the attack, and at worst, purposely ignores information that contradicts the narrative he’s attempting to build.

Going back to the attack site, this ignoring or ignorance of contradictory information is also apparent. Open source material from the day of the attack, as well as satellite imagery analysis by various sources (including this excellent piece by the New York Times) consistently point to the same impact sites, one of which is the specific crater claimed to be the source of Sarin released on the day of the attack. None of these point to the structure described by Hersh, nor is there any evidence of a site as described by Hersh being attacked. Journalists visited the town soon after the attack, and made no mention of the site as described by Hersh.

One might argue that all the individuals and groups on the ground, all the doctors treating the victims, and every single person spoken to by the journalists visiting the site failed to mention the site described by Hersh, but there’s a very simple way to clear up this matter. Anyone can access satellite imagery of the town before and after the date of the attack thanks to the imagery available on Terraserver, all Hersh’s source has to do is provide the coordinates of the building attacked and anyone with an internet connection will be able to look at that exact location, and see the destroyed building. A simple way for both Hersh and Welt to preserve their reputations.

Eliot Higgins

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog. Eliot focuses on the weapons used in the conflict in Syria, and open source investigation tools and techniques.

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232 Comments

  1. dotmafia

    Motive is everything, and Assad simply had no motive to use chemical weapons when he’s winning and the US and their jihadist terrorist proxies are losing. Why doesn’t the US or OPCW publicly release the data comparing the sarin samples with those taken from Assad’s stockpile? It would end the controversy immediately. But they don’t do this. Why? Because it would destroy their narrative.

    Reply
    • Clay Claiborne

      I agree motive is everything, but since Assad is no longer running this war, Putin is, the cui bono question needs to be put to Putin not Assad.

      Putin’s motive was to create am apparent falling out between himself and Trump. This was badly needed, particular at that time – just days after Trump’s Nunes gambit fell through. To Putin this is a much bigger game than Syria. He’s killing Syrians by the thousands anyway. So he kills a few with sarin, creates a row. Trump strikes back at an empty airbase, thanks to Trump’s warning, and Putin is so kind as to not shoot down any of the TLAMS even as they transversed the S-400 MEZ. A very polite “falling out” indeed, and 92 Syrian civilians paid the price. Too bad it only worked for a week.

      Reply
    • Karl Rainer

      Yes agreed, to launch a chemical weapons attack 4 days after he had basically secured his survival, following the WH agreeing he could remain in power on 31 March, would be the height of madness. Assad may be many things but not mad. The foreign backed terrorists operating in the area of course had every motive to reverse the new US position, and get them involved to push back Assad. Motive is something the Media and Government dont like to talk about, they would prefer people to just think about the screaming children on the White Helmet produced propaganda videos. The “rebels” had used CWs before, as former UK ambassador to Syria Peter Ford had said, in 2016, in an attempted “False Flag” attack to smear Assad. It would be quite possible to wait for a conventional air strike then fire off a few CW shells into the area. Or the Russian version of events could be equally likely.

      Reply
      • RichGoldman

        You guys are killing me. I agree, it was never explained WHY Assad would do this — and it left me wondering about it all.

        So the possible criminals and motives are:
        1) Terrorists did it to force the US to confront Assad.
        2) Putin did it to create an appearance of fallout between him and Trump. Which could mean that Trump is complicit, too.

        Are there other possibilities. Is Assad not a sadistic madman?

        Man, both of those possibilities are very depressing to me.

        Reply
        • Tom

          Crazy isn’t it? Everyone’s so sure of themselves, and posting as if the other side can’t possibly be right. Personally, I find it hard to side with anyone who produces partisan and recriminatory rhetoric. I look for people who can discuss the matter with reason and compassion, without pandering to emotion. So far I judge Assad and Putin to have achieved that rather well, even if they’re fooling us. If they are indeed monsters, I wish those espousing the western narrative would at least match their decorum. They show pictures of slain individuals, even in high level UN meetings, as if the emotions elicited somehow help us decide who is culpable. As if any scepticism of the official narrative can only come from treachery and guilt.

          The problem is that over past decades the west has gone to war on multiple occasions, based on a misinformed official narrative and wilful neglect of consequences, involving itself in huge destruction and political upheaval, leading to mushrooming violence. The guilt in those cases was not with the sceptics, I’m afraid. Where are the pictures of the victims when those subjects are discussed? Where was the balanced debate at the time? Who actually ever spoke any sense when making a case for ‘regime change’?

          Reply
          • RichGoldman

            I talked this over with a journalist friend of mine, and he says there’s one possibility which has been looked over. Which is that one of Assad’s SAA field commanders or sergeants could easily have done this, either with or without Assad’s approval, to achieve some unknown military or political objective. My friend mentioned that it’s enticing to line up historical events and try to see a large, linear strategy in it all. But that would be ignoring the centuries of history showing that warfare is almost always chaotic and unpredictable. He said reporters just aren’t that interested in getting to the bottom of this particular event, because it pales in comparison to the atrocities happening in Syria every day.

          • Tom

            Yes, that sounds possible. It reminds me that the initial Ghouta verdict was down to an Israeli intercept of a ‘panicked’ call between the Syrian Defence Ministry and a CW commander. It was widely reported at the time as a kind of ‘slam dunk’ against the regime. But of course we all know James Clapper famously reported to Obama that it _wasn’t_ a slam dunk, possibly because a very relevant half of the phone call had been ignored – the bit where the commander hotly denies using his weapons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Government_Assessment_of_the_Syrian_Government%27s_Use_of_Chemical_Weapons_on_August_21,_2013

            If true, it shows how evidence is easily misinterpreted (being charitable) in a highly charged atmosphere of good vs absolute evil, where the agenda is ‘regime change’. On the other hand, one definitely good thing did come out of it – the destruction of (or at least the majority of) Syria’s CW arsenal. That must have been quite a blow to Syria, since all sides seemed to have considered it a major ‘last resort’ deterrent to invasion by US and allied ground forces. So a major shot in the foot for Assad if he was indeed responsible for Ghouta.

          • RobTN

            You are going with the “Daily Caller” version of what the intercepted communication said.

            Wouldn’t it be more honest to go with “nobody knows what’s in the call”?

          • Tom

            If you could read you’d notice I used the word ‘possibly’. Have you anything material to say other than picking holes?

          • RobTN

            I call BS

            But of course we all know James Clapper famously reported to Obama that it _wasn’t_ a slam dunk, possibly because a very relevant half of the phone call had been ignored – the bit where the commander hotly denies using his weapons”

            That’s not a statement that part of the conversation might not exist, but that its motive for calling it “not a slam dunk”

          • Tom

            All right Rob, thanks for allowing me to clarify: ‘Possibly’ refers to an alleged element of the phone call, as well as to the possibility it might be related to the lack of ‘slam dunk’. But, when you ‘call BS’ this way, you might reflect a while on your recent scorn for the evidence that Shajul Islam was the doctor who treated Cantlie and Oerlemans. I’m sure it’ll do your soul some good.

            Now do you have anything to say about the main problem I have: The problem of lending faith and credence to established western narratives, in the light of our evident misadventures and mayhem in the middle east?

          • RobTN

            So you’re going with a possibility of a possibility. Damn that’s convincing.

            On the Dr. Yes I objected to the notion that Oerlemans couldn’t testify at the trail because he has been beheaded, when he hadn’t.
            That Shajul had been struck off for terrorism – when the proceedings are sealed and there’s no public knowledge.
            That the description given of the Dr didn’t match Shajul in the details (age, accent, seniority)
            And, yes, I also objected to your claim that Oerlemans had ‘positively identified’ Shajul when the article in question said no such thing.

            “The problem of lending faith and credence to established western narratives”

            Well the alternative narratives are looking none too good either. Even the Russians are now indicating that the crater is ground zero for the sarin.

            “”The same applies to the crater at the site where sarin was used,” he continued. “We asked the OPCW technical secretariat to pay special attention to this issue, but our request was left unanswered. It appears that the authors of the report just did not care about fact that this crater does not fit the theory of an aviation bomb use.”

            More:
            http://tass.com/world/955102

            They seem to have gone from “Oh it was a warehouse to – well OK it WAS sarin, but now we are saying not an aerial bomb”

          • Tom

            ‘Possibility of a possibility’? Is this the same kind of curious ‘AND’ logic you used on the other thread? Yes, you did object rather strongly to the doctor’s identification as Shajul Islam, which I guess is par for the course here. But let’s not fight over that.

            The point is, people have become critical of US intentions as well as sources. I would hope they remain suspicious of the other side too, but of course there is still this increasingly forlorn idea that one side is ‘good’ while the other is ‘bad’ – where everyone picks a side and then gives and takes a beating. Have you picked a side? Do you still allow for open-mindedness?

            In that spirit, if Russia really did have nothing to do with it, wouldn’t they be flummoxed by the situation on the ground and the accusations directed at them? They would be investigating possibilities and narrowing them down just like everyone else.

            Are you aware of a possible match for the remains of the device found in the road (with an air-launched weapon)? If the remains have indeed been ‘lost’ it would be a point in the CT’s favour. However the pictures are still available.

          • RobTN

            Well your own description was

            “Possibly’ refers to an alleged element of the phone call, as well as to the possibility it might be related to the lack of ‘slam dunk’.”

            *Possibly* the call said that and *possibly* that was what supposedly motivated the Slam Dunk comment.

            See possibly the conversation happened that way and if it did then possibly it was the motivator.

            You will notice that what I raised was the discrepancies between what Cantlie said and the actual details of the Doctor. Please do go back and check.

            Oh and your claim that “So Oerlemans positively id’d Shajul Islam”. Which the article in question did NOT state.

            On the Russians being flummoxed, in which case why did the attribute the casualties to bombing a warehouse full of chemicals if they didn’t know what was going on?

          • Tom

            We clearly think quite differently. For example, I read the following and could not see that it made much sense unless Oerlemans had already made a match:

            “Jeroen Oerlemans (1970) does not seem to get hot or cold from this news. Yes, of course, it’s great that MI5 traced them. And if there is a lawsuit in London, he will certainly give a testimony. But about Shajul Islam, the first man who was caught, he judged, “He was educated in England as a doctor and was the one who also saved my life. After I got injured he treated me well. During our conversations, I got the impression that he had never wanted to participate in abduction, but came to Syria to fight by helping injured people. ” He adds that he does not really suffer from a Stockholm syndrome.”

            I think you first have to put yourself INTO other people’s feet, to see if their claims make sense, rather than immediately poking holes. It doesn’t mean they’re not lying (or being misrepresented), but it does mean you can track and address a wider logic than your own. If you don’t do this you create a backlash, because people quite rightly see you as partisan. For example, the Russians might initially have attributed the casualties to a warehouse of chemicals because they actually believed they bombed a suspected warehouse of chemicals.

          • RobTN

            I doubt that he would have had to ‘positively identify’ Shajul in order for MI5 to look at people of interest. To me you seem to be reading in something that isn’t there to bolster an existing POV.

            On the subject of the Russians given that the Russian press reported

            “Konashenkov added that there were workshops for manufacturing bombs, stuffed with poisonous substances, on the territory of this warehouse. ”

            They don’t sound terribly flummoxed by the situation on the ground now, do they?

          • Tom

            “To me you seem to be reading in something that isn’t there to bolster an existing POV.” Yes, I’m perfectly aware of that, and my concern is that you don’t know, and nor apparently do you want to discover, what I’m actually thinking. It’s happening everywhere these days, have you noticed? I often wonder if there would be so much disagreement and friction in the world if this were otherwise.

            Regarding the Russian story, take away the word ‘flummoxed’ if you like. The material issue is whether they believed they attacked a chemical warehouse, and whether at the time they did not have a better explanation for the casualties.

          • RobTN

            Well there seems to have been very little follow up of details on this chemical warehouse they claim they blew up.

            You’d think people might have some sort of footage of it – if it existed.
            If, of course, it didn’t exist and the story is just a cover for an actual CW attack then presumably they could NOT produce anything to back it up.

          • Tom

            Indeed, but I’m not sure what kind of footage one can expect from an AQI controlled area. There is plenty of video of rebel workshops on Youtube, cannon and rocket assembly etc, but I doubt very much you could link them to a particular location. That kind of intelligence would generally come from informers, who are typically executed if they are caught.

            Of course it could be a cover story as you say, but that’s a facile conclusion which tends to dig a hole that’s very hard to climb out of. You shouldn’t go there till you have exhausted the alternatives. If you do, you risk an interminable mess in which bpth sides are “reading in something that isn’t there to bolster an existing POV”.

          • RobTn

            Well according to Hersh

            “The Russians were intent on confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the intelligence community as a POL – a pattern of life”

            So the Russians were watching their target for several days. Of course Hersh ‘might’ be talking shit again.

            Leaving that aside I doubt Russia bombs sites randomly without first trying to see what’s there, and what isn’t there when the smoke clears.

          • Tom

            Agreed, it would be good to have the evidence if it is there. But neither side seems to release it. There are of course plenty of conspiracy theories to explain that, going all the way to suggesting that no ‘state’ is actually interested in transparency these days. They all want to reserve as much of the actual truth as possible so they can maintain a parallel narrative that suits their political agenda.

          • Clay Claiborne

            You think you can deny any video footage that did not come from areas under regime control. Don’t be ridiculous. Video footage generally speaks for itself because it is almost impossible to fake without getting caught by lack of continuity.

            You Assad support act like their is a giant studio somewhere turning out fake rescue videos because Bashar wouldn’t hurt a fly.

            So, does he drop barrel bombs or not? Assad agents can’t even admit this.

          • Tom

            Again, you seem to be objecting to something I haven’t said. I’m actually saying the rebel videos of munitions workshops etc are interesting and real. They would be approved by rebel leadership because they increase morale. However, for obvious reasons, I don’t expect them to ever give away their exact location! OTOH I don’t expect a turncoat/informer to spend much time videoing such evidence, especially if it’s going to be made public, because his life depends on preserving his anonymity.

            Your second paragraph is insane. Who or what do you think you’re talking to?

            According to interviews I’ve seen, Assad has not denied using barrel bombs. He says whether ‘barrel’ or not, they are bombs and in a war you drop bombs. Both sides produce munitions of various sorts and use them. He does deny using CW, and you are right to question the truth of that, just as others are right to investigate the CW capability of rebels. On the other hand, many of Assad’s opponents use suicide bombs, which are just as destructive and can be targeted much more precisely and just as devastatingly against civilians. Check out what happened in Rashidin for example.

        • RobTn

          How Assad to demonstrate he won’t be dictated to by the west?
          After all a ‘red line ‘ was crossed in Ghouta and there were no serious repercussions.

          Reply
          • Tom

            When you say there were no ‘serious’ repercussions, have you considered that he lost his (or at least the vast majority of his) CW arsenal? All sides seem to have feared this as a potent ‘last resort’ threat/deterrent against invasion. It’s another reason people find it so hard to believe he’d shoot himself in the foot in Ghouta.

          • RobTN

            Compared to the USA intervening militarily? I’d say that’s not so serious.

            After all Assad would NEVER use chemical weapons. We keep getting told that don’t we?

          • Tom

            Still a massive own-goal IMO. Sarin etc were considered a ‘poor man’s’ nuclear deterrent (noone is supposed to use nuclear either), and if Assad used them in Ghouta he used them to lose them (or at least the vast majority of them.) In Khan Sheikhoun I still don’t see any benefits to him. And we see materially worse immoral acts (IMO) in places like Rashidin which seem to attract comparatively little western attention.

      • Clay Claiborne

        Sure, anything but mass murder by Assad & Putin. They would never do anything like that. It was like this (pick one):
        1) It was like the Syrian FM said – they bombed a terrorist CW warehouse – and no mention of a high level jihadist meeting!!!!
        2) It was like Dr. Theodore A. Postol, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology said – the jihadist set off a sarin pipe bomb in the street.
        3) Pulitzer Prize Winner Sy Hersh theory – they were blowing up a jihadist meeting of four in a cinderblock building that stored insecticide and fertilier.

        Anything but the truth. Besides why ever would Bashar kill his own peope when he needs their vote to get re-elected?

        Reply
  2. Mr White

    Another 2 different people collecting samples, this time wearing sandals.

    Reply
    • Clay Claiborne

      Wasn’t this the next day? They could have been barefoot bacause sarin doesn’t stick around that long. It evaporates like water on a dry day and you are trying to excuse mass murder with false information about the persistence of sarin.

      Reply
  3. Tom

    OK, I see you want a sterile and partisan discussion. You quoted OCHA as evidence that “most of the population fled to Idlib”:

    “once evacuated from the besieged areas, civilians had the option to go where they wished. The overwhelming majority went to non-State armed group areas.”

    You seem to be equating the population, widely reported as 200,000 or more during the siege, with the 35,000 evacuees. I suggest that is a gross error on your part, echoed in the general tone of the western media. Which is why I brought the media into it, and I think you should do to. Perhaps you should read the NY Times article I linked?

    Regarding the chemical weapons issue, I’m not trying to be partisan at all. Just pointing out that both sides have used Chlorine, and that Chlorine is not a “red line”. It may be disgusting, but most people survive Chlorine, and it is no more disgusting to me than conventional bombing, and certainly no more disgusting than deliberately enticing children to their death by massive suicide bomb.

    Have fun intellectualising all this.

    Reply
    • Mr White

      Most people from East Aleppo went to government controlled areas.

      It was the terrorists and their families who went to Idlib.

      Reply
      • Mad Dog

        I thought the Syrians were the terrorists. They were the ones who first fired on unarmed, peaceful demonstrators, first ones to drop barrel bombs on civilian areas, first ones to use chem weapons, etc. Perhaps that doesn’t meet your definition of terrorist, but I find it hard to believe anyone would want to support that thugacracy unless they had some kind of vested interest in Russian/Iranian fortunes.

        Reply
        • Louis Proyect

          the ‘unarmed peaceful demonstrators’ is a lie, they were armed and murdering police offciers.

          Must be hard to write crap like this on a Kremlin wage that has shrunk because of falling oil prices. Not only so robotic but misspelled.

          Reply
        • stranger

          Oh, of course, it is much more profitable to write propagandistic crap slightly disguised as “open source researches” on Soros money and government grants!
          When there is nothing to say the last argument is always ad hominem…

          Reply
        • Tom

          You’re quoting one side of the story. There are others. And while there are some who heap praise on Assad, there are plenty who don’t and who still feel able to talk about ‘terrorists’. Many have been bombed by Assad’s forces and yet welcome them simply because they’ve had enough of an even worse kind of ‘thugocracy’ the west seems blind to. Please read this as a fairly impartial review of local opinion in Aleppo: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/24/magazine/aleppo-after-the-fall.html

          Reply
          • Clay Claiborne

            You’re kidding when you say the west is blind to daesh terrorists, right? Because they’ll seeing them out of Mosul and Raqqa pretty quickly now.
            The problem I see is that Assad and his supporters see all opposition as terrorists.

            You do know that Assad stopped bombing Raqqa after daesh kicked the FSA out and took over don’t you?

          • Tom

            If you actually read that article you’ll get both sides of the story. We aren’t generally told much if anything about the kind of people who rule the roost in opposition areas, particularly besieged Aleppo. And no, they’re not Daesh.

            Re Raqqa, yes I can believe Assad would not wage war on a front others will tackle for him. If he’s a monster he’s not a stupid one.

          • Clay Claiborne

            Assad bombed Raqqa as long as the FSA held it. After Daesh took over, Assad treated it like a no-fly zone. He stopped bombing! [until the US came in – then he did a little]

            He’s played this game a lot, driving people into Daesh held areas by no bombing Daesh while bombing the hell out of liberated areas.

          • Tom

            Yes, those are the logical tactics of war. You make life as difficult for your enemy as possible, and you make use of common enemies to your own advantage. Tell me the US have never done this.

            The problem is this ‘good vs evil’ narrative. I don’t see true ‘good’ anywhere except in a completely impartial view. Wherever one or other side is seen as good or evil you find contradictions, and you find people mouthing hatred and you see an endless cycle of violence. If you continue to get involved in that, you’re part of the problem.

          • Clay Claiborne

            There probably isn’t an imperialist trick that the US has used but I appreciate your agreement that Assad & Daesh collaborate against their common enemy, the Syrian people.

            Your suggest that we should not get involved. You want Putin and Assad to be able to do their dirty work without outside comment.

          • Tom

            You put words in people’s mouths, and it’s plainly done out of spite.

            I’m not saying do nothing. I’m saying do it with your eyes open to your own flaws, and without the spite.

  4. Paul Malone

    I note that one of the witnesses in the video says there were four explosions. This is not consistent with Higgins’ account. But it is consistent with Hersh.

    Reply
    • Clay Claiborne

      The account of Syrian witnesses on the ground, which the French, HRW, WH, Higgins and I agree with, is that there were 4 explosions – 3 conventional and one CW bomb.

      Hersh only speaks on 1 smart bomb. He even argues that there was a smell of chlorine and says this wouldn’t be the case if the Syrians had dropped a pure sarin bomb. He doesn’t try to account for 4 explosions, only one in his cinder-block house and secondary explosions,

      Reply
  5. Clay Claiborne

    First, sarin is a liquid at room temperature, not a gas. It is dispersed as a mist of tiny droplets. It is a non-persistent agent, meaning it is gone in minutes. Those around the site the next day face no danger of exposure to sarin. sarin evaporates like water on a dry day. Try pouring water on the desert sand, then come back the next day and try to get wet.

    Reply
  6. Nael Saleh

    The people that were collecting samples (at the time of collecting the samples) were not wearing masks and one of them was also smoking (carrying a cigarette in his hand).Also,while collecting samples from a ditch on ground (due to the impact) people on the other side of the road were passing by freely without being harmed.If people were that close to the point of impact of the bomb carrying the Sarin gas all of them would had been exposed and harmed.All of what I had mentioned above was shown on a video taken from the impact point location.Many people are inquiring are the people that collected the samples and the chemical experts that did the analysis of the samples are trust-worthy???????

    Reply
    • RobTN

      Not necessarily. Look at the secondary exposure patterns from the two known Sarin attacks in Japan.

      “”No primary decontamination was performed at the scene of the Tokyo subway sarin attack. In addition, the first responders and the health care workers involved in the initial response were not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). As a result, 135 (9.9%) of the 1364 fire department personnel who responded to the incident experienced secondary exposure while transporting victims to emergency facilities [2]. Although the extent of secondary exposure among police department personnel has not been made public, it is thought to have been similar to that observed among fire department personnel. Fortunately, no lives were lost due to secondary exposure because the purity of the sarin used in the Tokyo subway attack was only approximately 30%. It is thought that the use of sarin of low concentration was because the group responsible for the attack – the Aum Shinrikyo cult – received information on a police investigation into their activities, which they intended to disrupt by launching the attack. The short time period between the planning and execution of the attack meant that the concentration of the sarin used was relatively low. In contrast, nearly pure sarin was used in the Matsumoto sarin attack [3,4] in 1994. If high-purity sarin had also been used in the Tokyo attack then lives might have been lost due to secondary exposure.”

      The higher purity sarin case didn’t result in “all of them would had been exposed and harmed” through secondary exposure either.

      Reply
    • Clay Claiborne

      sarin is what they call a non-persistent chemical agent – meaning it loses effectiveness in minutes. Sarin evaporates like water on a dry day, so the next day there is no danger and no safety equipment is needed.

      This line that the lack of safety equipment proves it was a fake attack is used by those who either don’t know what they are talking about or they are consciously attempting to create confusion about the cause of a mass murder. So which are you?

      Reply
      • Paul E. Merrell

        Does not compute. If it completely dissipates within minutes then why are they gathering samples? That suggests they believe the dissipation is incomplete, yes?

        Reply
        • Clay Claiborne

          It doesn’t compute because you are trying to hard to defend Assad. Just because it can no longer harm you the next day, it doesn’t mean there aren’t trace elements. Also remember they didn’t know what they were dealing with at that time. That’s why they were collecting samples.

          All this talk about “they didn’t have the proper equipment”, “didn’t follow proper procedures”, etc. is so much BS from people that weren’t forced to deal with it in the moment. I suspect they decided to treat patients, collect samples, etc. until they at least started to feel sick, but they never did feel that sick and now we know why. They were dealing with sarin and it wasn’t doing to kill anyone exposed hours later.

          Besides, your logic is meaningless. The persistent of sarin is a well established fact, and now so it the fact that it was sarin that was used at Khan Sheikhoun.

          Reply
  7. Nael Saleh

    I suggest that a neutral and independent committee of experts assigned by the security council of the UN be formed and deployed to the Syrian city Ein Sheikhoun for investigating the events.After investigating and collecting the samples the samples should be sent to different trustworthy labs for chemical analysis.The samples should be sent to Russia,the USA,European countries,Japan and China for chemical analysis.If the results match then we are on the right track.

    Reply
      • Mad Dog

        Hahaha, how people try to evade the obvious. Even if we did as Nael said, there would still be naysayers. Not in their agenda to say yes.

        Reply
  8. Nael Saleh

    The USA (before committing any aggression against other countries) always make false excuses displaying the other as composing a great threat to USA security,regional and world security besides being a great threat to world order and peace.One of the best examples is accusing Iraq (when Saddam was in power) of possessing a huge arsenal of chemical weapons.After the occupation of Iraq in the spring of 2003 all these accusations appeared to be false accusations and lies.Washington used these accusations as a pretext to launch a full scale war against an independent and sovereign Iraq.The white house was accusing Saddam of being a tyrant and a killer (Saddam Husein was accused of torturing and killing hundreds of Iraqis) and because of that he was sentenced to death and was executed.After the occupation of Iraq in 2003 which was carried out by hundreds of thousands of the American military forces the Americans took over the job of torturing and killing of Iraqi citizens (more than one million and half of Iraqis were killed,Iraqi jails were over saturated with Iraqi prisoners besides more than 4 million Iraqis were forced to leave the country to exile mostly in Syria.All of this was carried out while the American occupation officials were in full control of Iraq.The American occupation (according to the international law) authorities were responsible for the security and well being of the Iraqi citizens throughout the occupation course and after the Americans had been in control there.Besides of the alleged accusations of Iraq possessing a huge arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (that apparently was faked) used for launching the war which claimed to be carried out for salvaging the region and the world from the threat of annihilation,besides this faked reason the Americans claimed that the war was also carried out for salvaging the Iraqi people from the tyrant Saddam and for bringing democracy and human rights to the Iraqi people.All these claims evaporated after the American occupation forces were in full control of the situation there.The publicly claimed overt reasons of occupying Iraq were completely different than the covert goals of the war.The covert goals were hegemony and being in control of the natural wealth (oil fields and energy sources) of that nation besides being in control also of the network of the oil pipe lines and routes.Another crucial covert goal was destroying Iraq as a decisive and strategic interest of the state of Israel.Developed and influential Iraq could constitute and impose a real and great threat to Israel’s strategic interests and regional hegemony (allegedly claimed by Washington). While the American occupation of Iraq was still on going the American secretary of state,Collin Paul then, payed a formal visit to the Syrian Arab Republic,he met with President Bashaar Al-Assad using the policy of the carrot and stick in his negotiations with the Syrian President.Collin Paul’s words were: if President Al-Assad agrees to our regional agendas (which includes Israeli agendas) the USA would offer Syria a considerable financial assistance that mounts to more than 20 milliard dollars (the carrot) if not,Syria will face the same fate as Iraq.Syria will be destroyed,disintegrated and go hundred years backward.President Al-Assad response to those threats was:Syria is an independent and sovereign country and our policy is serving the real interests of the Syrian people however not the strategic interests of the USA and Israel that are hostile and contradict the real interests of the Syrian people.Consequently the USA and it’s regional proxy countries were planning silently for a proxy war (using terror gangs deployed to Syria from different countries from the 4 corners of the world) with the goals of destroying and disintegrating Syria.A war that started on march 2011.After the proxies (the terror gangs and their regional supporters) failed to accomplish this evil mission the USA started planning for a direct intervention in Syria.For direct intervention the USA needed a pretext a false excuse.So Washington started blaming the Syrian armed forces of using chemical weapons at random which caused the killing of 10s of Syrian civilians.Prof. Theodor Postol (a chemical expert at Princeton) response to claims accusing the Syrian air force of dropping chemical bombs on the Syrian city of Ein Sheikhoun was: there is no evidence what so ever.It is neither the chemical weapons nor the 10s of killed civilians or the humanitarian issue the matters the White House.What matters is carrying out their agendas (the Zionist-American agendas).Donald Trump and his predecessors wanted a share of the Syrian cake the Syrian newly discovered tremendous amounts of oil and natural gas on the Syrian soil and coasts.Experts assume that if the state of Syria exploits these enormous amounts of energy sources for serving the real interests of the Syrian people the state of Syria future will be very bright.The Syrian Arab republic will be the most developed,robust,mighty and most influential in the region which Trump and his predecessors used all kinds of pressures and still until the moment for preventing it from being a fact on ground.Preventing a bright future from the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian people is a USA interest for the sake of keeping the state of Israel the most developed,robust,mighty and most influential in the region.

    Reply
  9. Nael Saleh

    At the same time the White House was accusing Iraq (when Saddam Husein was in power) and recently Syria of possessing chemical weapons and other sorts of weapons of mass destruction demanding both to give up their arsenals of these fatal weapons.The USA (since the 1950s) permitted the state of Israel of raising the Demona nuclear reactor.Which experts say that it is capable of manufacturing 10 nuclear war heads a year.The Israeli Demona nuclear reactor started it’s manufacturing activity of nuclear warheads since 1958.60 years have passed since then.Which according to simple calculations Israel already manufactured 500-600 nuclear warheads.This number is more than what Great Britain and France (both countries) already manufactured.500-600 nuclear warheads could pose a very great danger to life not only to Israel’s neighboring countries and the region but to life in the 4 corners of planet earth.The best solution for this regional and world very dangerous dilemma is for the security council of the UN to take a fateful and decisive decision of cleansing (evacuating) the region of all sorts of weapons of mass destruction.The state of Israel could not be an exception if the world leaders are looking forward for maintaining (sustaining) life and a better future for nations inhabiting (populating) this most precious (valuable) piece of land the region of the middle east.

    Reply

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