Within hours of the release of the Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons report from their fact-finding mission (FFM), when they investigated the Syrian Arab Army’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians in the Douma stronghold, mainstream media already hopped on their sensationalist train of deception.
Chemical weapons agency finds ‘chlorinated’ chemicals in Syria’s Douma”
…and The Independent wrote:
Syrian conflict: Chlorine used in Douma attack that left dozens of civilians dead, chemical weapons watchdog finds”
While the Qatar’s government funded Al Jazeera posted their own article, titled:
Interim OPCW report finds proof of chlorine used in Syria’s Douma.”
Though these titles aren’t necessarily wrong, they are inherently misleading. Only in the fine print under the title of The Independent’s article does it say,
But no evidence of nerve agents, says watchdog.”
Later in the article, it says,
The OPCW has not attributed blame for the banned munitions in the April attack, but its investigation into the use of chemical weapons is continuing.”
Usually people just skim the article, or glance at the title itself, and if one did that, their mind would think “Okay, Assad gassed his civilians. The US government was right.” But that conclusion is wrong. Even then, those articles are wildly absolutist, and don’t acknowledge the complexities of the actual report, which I will deconstruct here. I am not claiming the OPCW report is wrong, I am simply showing that the media’s portrayal of these findings are flawed.
The summary of the report says,
The results show that no organophosphorous nerve agents or their degradation products were detected in the environmental samples or in the plasma samples taken from alleged casualties. Along with explosive residues, various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from two sites, for which there is full chain of custody. Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is on-going. The FFM team will continue its work to draw final conclusions.”
One key word is alleged casualties, not confirmed, which shows that a lot of this is still up for debate. The OPCW report actually invalidates a large part of the previously mentioned article’s statements, as the OPCW has not drawn their final conclusions about the chlorine and explosive residues found on site, and are still working to find out the truth.
Another invalid part of those articles is their accusation against the Syrian government, when nowhere in the July 6th report does it accuse them of such. In the report, the OPCW writes:
The FFM’s mandate is to determine whether chemical weapons or toxic chemicals as weapons have been used in Syria. It does not include identifying who is responsible for alleged attacks.”
Even if they completely confirm the presence of these chemicals, which they haven’t, that doesn’t mean the Syrian government is guilty. Keep in mind that this is a civil war, between numerous proxy forces, including the Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), a Saudi-backed terrorist group occupying the Douma suburb that was investigated, before Eastern Ghouta was completely liberated from terrorist forces. The likelihood of the Syrian Arab Army using chemical weapons is very slim, given that the OPCW confirmed that all declared chemical weapons in the country were handed over by Bashar al-Assad to the United States to be destroyed.
However, that doesn’t remove the possibility of terrorists getting their hands on some beforehand, which they did, most of them being salafist jihadist groups such as ISIS, Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsaor, Saudi Arabia’s Jaysh al-Islam, Tahrir al-Sham, and the Guardians of Religion Organization. There is also the possibility that the Syrian Arab Army didn’t give all their weapons, but I don’t see the advantage of that, given that they already have tons of non-chemical weapons and the use of them would already make the international community hate Assad even more, and the OPCW probably wouldn’t let that fly.
But this isn’t the first time the SAA have been accused of gassing civilians after the destruction of the SAA’s weapons in 2014. The report specifically addresses two previous allegations
…of chemical weapons use in Al-Hamadaniya, Syria on 30 October 2016, and Karm al-Tarrab, Syria on 13 November 2016. On the basis of the information received and analysed… the FFM cannot confidently determine whether or not a specific chemical was used as a weapon in the incidents that took place in the neighbourhood of Al-Hamadaniyah and in the area of Karm al-Tarrab. The FFM noted that the persons affected in the reported incidents may, in some instances, have been exposed to some type of non-persistent, irritating substance.”
Given this conclusion, which sounds more likely, the Syrian Arab Army would gas the towns filled with civilians that they were trying to save, not caring what the international community thought of them, and that they still have a chemical weapons stockpile, or that the terrorist groups who have chemical weapons contaminated the area they were holding hostage.
You might ask, “But what about the video?” You mean the video that looks a lot like this one of the Syrian opposition rehearsing a fake chemical weapons attack? The one with the inconsistent (but disturbing) aftermath footage? The one in which medical professionals who were filmed in the video spoke out about the artificiality of the video? The one in which a boy in the video confessed that the White Helmets started pouring water on all the children and faking other treatments? I think I can draw the obvious conclusions, but if I do, I might be accused of being an “apologist”, a “denier”, or “pro-Assad.”
The FFM team was not able to enter Douma for almost a week after its arrival, owing to the high security risks to the team, which included the presence of unexploded ordnance, explosives, and sleeper cells still suspected of being active in Douma. On 18 April 2018, during a reconnaissance visit to two sites of interest, the security detail was confronted by a hostile crowd and came under fire from small arms and a hand grenade that exploded. The incident reportedly resulted in two fatalities and one injury.”
The report also says that the planned FFM deployment was delayed until security was ensured, as suggested by the UNDSS (United Nations Department for Safety and Security), and these security measures included
(a) clearing the areas to be visited by the FFM team;
(b) securing the areas during the 24-hour period before deployment;
(c) increasing the number of escorts and having advance teams from the UNDSS and the Russian Military Police monitor the area prior to the arrival of the team at the sites;
(d) using the police force for crowd control;
(e) minimising the movement of civilians near the areas of interest given the possibility of suicide bombers getting within close proximity of the inspection team;
and (f) deploying snipers on rooftops around the sites of interest.”
The United Nations suggested that they make the areas safer, so the Russian Military Police complied; they weren’t blocking anyone off from Douma with secretive, malicious intentions.
In fact the Syrian Arab Republic wasn’t reluctant to have an investigation in the first place:
On 10 April 2018, the Secretariat sent note verbale No. NV/ODG/214589/18 to the Syrian Arab Republic expressing its intention to deploy a team to Damascus. This correspondence coincided with note verbale No. 38 from the Permanent Representation of the Syrian Arab Republic to the OPCW requesting that an FFM team be dispatched urgently to visit the town of Douma to verify the information surrounding the alleged use of toxic chemicals on 7 April 2018. On the same day, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OPCW submitted a letter to the Secretariat in which he welcomed the request from the Syrian Arab Republic and pledged to facilitate the work of the FFM.”
But Syria and Russia were eager for a report and investigation, which isn’t how a government guilty of a massacre would react. Suspected murderers who turn out guilty typically aren’t desperate for the site of their crime to be investigated.
You might be thinking, “Why are you so adamant about defending the Syrian Arab Republic?” And the truth is, I’m not entirely. I’m adamant about defending the truth, the truth that has been hidden or distorted so often by western media, and their manipulation of current events has only led to the political nightmares in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, among many others. I’m not saying the Syrian government is perfect, nor do I agree with parts of their political ideology and laws, but I am saying this: the media lies a lot, and those lies lead to deaths.
Here in the imperial core, encouraging people to think critically, read carefully, and not jump to conclusions, while consuming media that isn’t tainted by greed and popularity, is the most I can do to try and stop these things from happening. No, I don’t think this article will single handedly end the Syrian Civil War, but the more people that are against western perpetuation of it, the better. Our suspicions aren’t historically unwarranted and if my defense of truth is a defense of the Syrian Arab Republic government, then maybe Assad is on the side of truth.
If the entire report, when finally completed, shows that the SAA isn’t guilty, the precedent that the imperialist triplets used to justify their bombing (which luckily harmed nobody) would turn out to be false, like Iraq, and Vietnam, and Libya. But they had to be telling the truth this time. Conveniently, they bombed the place where Assad was allegedly developing chemical weapons to kill civilians, which would have been a good place for the OPCW to investigate, had it not been blown to smithereens. Regardless of who is guilty, we must never forget the victims of this horrendous, bloody war; the loss of thousands of innocent civilians is something to mourn about, no matter who is guilty. The most we can do for them is bring justice to those that stole their lives, and somehow try to stop these things from happening again.