by David Macilwain
At a recent press briefing, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova in her inimitable style picked on the loose and unscientific language rattling round the corridors of Western power – “it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for trying to poison the Skripals with a nerve agent.”
She rightly questioned the sanity and motivation of a government prepared to take such provocative and dangerous actions based merely on this supposition of guilt, even if that supposition were true. (which of course it wasn’t – see below -) While “highly likely” appeared to be sufficient proof to satisfy the UK’s already determinedly Russo-phobic partners, who joined in the diplomatic expulsions with barely any encouragement, to anyone with a fair and scientific mind such a standard of evidence is little better than hearsay.
“Highly likely” has a history of use – or misuse – that led the IPCC to define “likelihood” in scientific terms when talking about climate change. Updating its predictions in 2013, the IPCC presented this scale:
- Virtually certain: 99 to 100 per cent probability
- Extremely likely: Over 95 per cent.
- Very likely: Above 90 per cent
- Likely: Above 66 per cent
Coincidentally, the IPCC’s upgrading of the likelihood of man-made climate change, from “very” to “extremely” likely, came only weeks after another case of “very likely” in Syria. Summoned to Damascus on August 19th 2013 to investigate the alleged use of a chemical weapon by “rebels” in Khan al Assal in March, a team from the OPCW was promptly diverted to investigate a “Sarin attack” reported by “rebel” groups in the nearby suburbs of Jobar and Moadamiya two days later.
While the OPCW was strictly and solely charged with establishing the presence of Sarin at the alleged missile strike sites, and in the bodies of alleged “survivors” supplied by local “rebel” groups, Western governments supporting the armed opposition declared it “highly likely” that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged Sarin attack and the alleged deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians.
They did so on the basis of ZERO evidence, but purely on what was presented as evidence of Sarin exposure in videos released by militant Opposition groups occupying East Ghouta.
The extent of this deception registered on the populations of the Western world in late August 2013 set the precedent for subsequent false flag operations in Syria in a way that is now barely believable, such that transparently fabricated “chemical weapons attacks” like those in Khan Shaikoun and recently in Douma have still passed muster with most “experts” and academics in NATO-allied countries.
This belief in circumstantial and unverifiable video “evidence” is however restricted to its target audience in the West, who see its source – the White Helmets – as sufficient authentication that “Assad is killing his own people”, and that a Western military “response” is called for and justified.
Ask the residents of Douma, where the gas attack is alleged to have taken place, – as independent journalists have done – and you will get verifiable evidence, not just from witnesses but from the very “stars” – and victims – of the White Helmets’ latest hospital emergency drama. The presentation of these true Syrian witnesses, brought to the Hague by Russia to testify on the fraudulent pretext for the April 6th missile attack on Syria, will prove to be a turning point, not least because of the coincidental arguments over the Skripals’ poisoning at the OPCW headquarters.
It’s important to note now that there are two distinct classes of evidence involved in these allegations and claims made of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian and Russian governments – legal and scientific.
As explained above, “highly likely” is assumed vernacular for the statistical estimate of “90% confidence” that a hypothesis is true. It is probably no exaggeration to say that this statistical method underlies ALL scientific research, and certifies the truth of its results. No qualified scientist could argue otherwise, nor be unfamiliar with the demands of this method.
Most importantly, for a hypothesis to be seriously considered, 90% confidence is insufficient – equivalent perhaps to “circumstantial evidence”. 95% confidence is the accepted minimum in most scientific research – as in the IPCC’s “extremely likely” – requiring further certification to give 98.5% confidence that a claim is “virtually certain”.
In legal parlance this highest degree of confidence would be considered “beyond reasonable doubt” – the standard required for a trial before punitive action can be taken.
To say that this stands in stark contrast to the facts of the case made against both Syria and Russia by the new Triumvirate – the UK, France and US, for which the punishment has already been administered, is a gross understatement. Consider the details of the alleged crimes in Salisbury and Syria. (partly established in a previous article here)
We may first observe that we don’t actually know the details of the crimes committed, or even if they were committed. Yet on the basis of this alleged crime in Salisbury, and an unsubstantiated allegation of Russia’s “highly likely” responsibility for “the first use of a chemical weapon since WW2 in Europe” – NATO powers are now engaged in renewed and unrelenting aggression against Russia and her allies.
As evidence for a “Skripal-Douma conspiracy” becomes overwhelming, particularly following the outrageously unscientific claims from the head of the OPCW (of which more below), it is time to turn the tables on the “likelihood” scale. The “unlikely” end of the IPCC’s scale reads thus:
- Unlikely: Zero to 33 per cent
- Very unlikely: Zero to 10 per cent
- Extremely unlikely: Zero to five per cent
While the UK’s claim that Russia was “highly likely” to have been responsible for the alleged nerve agent attack on the Skripals in Salisbury on March 4th does not constitute a reasonable cause for action – as detailed above – the claim is actually mendacious and inverted. Any impartial observer, even lacking scientific or legal understanding, but having “common sense” would consider Russia “very” or “extremely” unlikely to have been responsible for the alleged attack on the Skripals.
Russia had no motive, no means and no benefit from committing such a crime – an “own goal” for the coming Football World Cup, and for the whole condition of Russia’s relations with the West. The same inversion of common sense applies to claims the Syrian government used chemical weapons against insurgent groups (“civilians” in NATO parlance), on all three occasions for which punitive action was taken.
The Russian president, whose understanding of science and law is evidently underpinned by some serious common sense, was quick to observe that these claims against the Syrian government following the 2013 Ghouta incident were “utter nonsense”. For others however, Russia’s subsequent proposal that Syria’s CW stocks be destroyed under UN supervision only seemed to certify Syria’s guilt.
Make what you will of the recent missile strikes targeting the very facilities that were removed and destroyed by the OPCW in that operation, and the total silence on this striking deception from Western authorities and media alike. “A lethal charade” seems to describe it, though the damage could have been incalculable had Syria’s air defences failed to stop most of the missiles reaching their targets.
In the end however it is only “science” that can establish the guilt of those in the UK, France and US who contrived and effected this complex scheme to frame Russia. Common sense has already indicated that it is highly likely that they were responsible, having the motive, means and ability to benefit from such an operation.
And it is the very body charged with adjudicating on the scientific evidence which has now provided the International Criminal Court with sufficient material for a conviction – beyond reasonable doubt. The Director General of the OPCW, Mr Ahmet Uzumcu stated that:
For research activities or protection you would need, for instance, five to 10 grams or so, but even in Salisbury it looks like they may have used more than that, without knowing the exact quantity, I am told it may be 50, 100 grams or so, which goes beyond research activities for protection.
It’s not affected by weather conditions. That explains, actually, that they were able to identify it after a considerable time lapse.
He added the samples collected suggested the nerve agent was of “high purity”.
Faced with a barrage of ridicule from independent and Russian media, the OPCW sought to issue a “clarification” on behalf of their evidently scientifically illiterate D.G., which merely cast doubt on the credibility of the entire organisation and its political allegiances.
While the LD-50 – the dose lethal to 50% of a tested population of rats – of “A 234” Novichok is uncertain, that of VX nerve agent is a mere 7 microgrammes/Kg injected intravenously. Assuming a 50% absorption of poison through the skin works out at roughly 1000 microgrammes – 1 Milligram per person, for VX.
But according to Porton Down, “Novichok” is 7 to 10 times more toxic than VX. Accounting for this, as well as the evidently sub-lethal dose the Skripals received, suggests a quantity of nerve agent ONE MILLIONTH of that proposed by Mr Uzumcu was used.
In fact it suggests nothing of the sort, but rather provides substantial evidence that the Skripals were never exposed to this super-toxic “military-grade nerve agent”, suffering instead only from the incapacitating agent BZ that was found in their blood samples. Given that no other victims of nerve agent exposure were reported in Salisbury it would also be reasonable to ask just where the OPCW discovered its samples of “Novichok”…
There is just one more brick to pull from under this edifice of lies; the testimony of the UK’s leading expert on Chemical Weapons Hamish de Bretton Gordon. In an article packed full of UK government talking points and lies about the war on Syria that reflects his own activities, agenda and vested interests, Gordon states that:
[Novichok]is thought to be ten times more toxic than VX and very persistent. Probably less than half an egg cup full of agent transfixed the world for two weeks and greatly increased the tensions between the West and Russia. The OPCW were called in to investigate and produce a report for the consideration of the UN Security Council, which they now have done to confirm the findings of Porton Down scientists.
I think Russia can rest her case.
David Macilwain is an independent journalist/writer & activist. A previous version of this article appeared in the American Herald Tribune
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