The OPCW’s “final report” on the 2018 chemical incident in Douma, Syria, has been revealed to have suppressed a crucial engineers’ study that points to a conclusion opposed to the official one. Given the vital role of the OPCW in implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention on behalf of virtually every country in the world, this is a matter that calls for thorough and stringent investigation. Yet undertakings to do this have not been immediately forthcoming.
Furthermore, a large number of people lost their lives under unexplained circumstances in connection with the incident, so there is suspicion of a crime of mass murder. Thus concerns are that a proper criminal investigation may have been hampered. This also needs to be thoroughly investigated.
Below follows some brief commentary and selected links (most recent first) on how public understanding has developed in relation to the event and the informational contestation surrounding it.
[Update 12 June 2019]
Mainstream media have continued to avoid the issue, but across alternative and social media, public pressure for answers has been maintained. The spokespersons for OPCW seem to have made matters worse for themselves each time they have said something, as the Working Group (WGSPM) pointed out in a study of official OPCW responses. The WGSPM authors show that the responses are mutually self-contradictory. Initial attempts by OPCW management to deny the authenticity or downplay the significance of the leaked engineers’ report were followed by tacit admissions of its genuineness. The reason then given for its exclusion from the OPCW’s final report was that it contained an implication about who was responsible for the incident – yet in fact it did so no more than the approved report had done. It just pointed in the opposite direction.
In the meantime, a question in UK Parliament received a blithe and unsatisfactory reply, while some incisively probing questions formulated by Peter Hitchens received none from OPCW. Indeed, the Director General of the OPCW appeared to make matters worse with some perplexing remarks at a conference on 11 June.
The silence of mainstream media and disarray apparent within the upper levels of contrasts with the dedication of OPCW’s professional investigators, independent journalists, and concerned citizens to get the truth out.
Sadly, it does have also to be noted that there are a few journalists of another kind who have continued to try to suppress critical questioning. The notorious ‘narrative corrector’ Idrees Ahmad, for instance, who as well as being a journalist is a lecturer at Stirling University in Scotland, attempted to intimidate The Nation & Izzy Awards into spurning the highly-respected independent journalist Aaron Maté for covering the leaked report. Meanwhile, Professor Scott Lucas of Birmingham University, who edits EA (Enduring America) Online, appears to have been channelling information – albeit of questionable quality – from “informed sources” within OPCW. (Ahmad and Lucas, incidentally, were called on to provide statements for the smear articles on WGSPM members in The Times last April – occasioned by our raising of questions about the reliability of claims about chemical weapons attacks.)
[28 May 2019] Public debate since the leaking of OPCW engineers’ report published 13 May 2019
Mainstream media has been slow – to put it mildly – in picking up the story. Exceptions to the general silence are Robert Fisk, Peter Hitchens, and Tucker Carlson with Tulsi Gabbard. (Hitchens has also pursued the story of a new alleged chemical attack of 19 May this year which appeared simply to be dropped by the media in the light of revelations now circulating concerning the previous one.)
Meanwhile, more numerous independent journalists and commentators have emphasised the significance of the leaked report. Videos feature Jimmy Dore and Aaron Mate interviewing Theodore Postol. Authors of articles include Caitlin Johnstone, Craig Murray, Jonathan Cook, Tony Cartalucci, Martin Jay, Kit Knightly, John McEvoy, Philip Roddis, Citizens Electoral Council (Australia), Martin Odoni, James O’Neill, Eric Zuesse, Fabio Giuseppe Carlo Carisio (in Italian), MediaLens, Tobias Riegel (in German), and Paul Bond.
From the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), Piers Robinson is interviewed live on RT, and David Miller gives an extended interview on Syriana Analysis.
The leaked OPCW engineers’ assessment was first published with a commentary by: Paul McKeigue, David Miller and Piers Robinson (13 May 2019) Assessment by the engineering sub-team of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission investigating the alleged chemical attack in Douma in April 2018, Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.
Engineers’ Assessment of Two Cylinders Observed at the Douma Incident (circulated internally 27 February 2019; published via WGSPM 13 May 2019) Unclassified OPCW.
Concerns about the quality of the OPCW final report of 1 March 2019
Russian Federation (26 April 2019) Commentaries on the conclusion of the report of the fact-finding mission on the use of chemical weapons in Syria regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma on 7 April 2018, OPCW Executive Council.
Paul McKeigue, David Miller and Piers Robinson (12 April 2019) The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW): critical questions, Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.
In this period it emerged that public debate was being influenced by an organisation called the Institute for Statecraft and its “Integrity Initiative”. I have posted a separate listing on this of 185 links to items between November 2018 and April 2019.
Further public information in the period between OPCW FFM interim and final report of 1 March 2019
CGTN (14 February 2019) BBC producer drops bombshell by saying footage of 2018 Douma chemical attack was ‘staged’, Youtube
Significant findings in the period between the event and OPCW interim report of the Fact-Finding Mission (6 July 2018)
Regarding the event of 7 April 2018, relevant links were provided in this commentary that I posted on 8 April 2018 and last updated 28 April 2018.