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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Why Jefferson Morley's Opinion on Douma has no Value

By Adam Larson aka Caustic Logic (as usual)
December 22, 2019
(with same-day edits)

I've been slow to address this, briefly thinking I wouldn't bother. But I really should, finally. Jefferson Morley wants you to know "Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’" - first at the Deep State blog back on 29 November:
and re-run widely, including at the anti-establishment Counterpunch on 6 December: https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/12/06/why-the-douma-chemical-attack-wasnt-a-managed-massacre/

Until the alleged chemical attack of 7 April, 2018 Douma had for years been occupied by genocidal Islamist fanatics of Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), openly allies with Jabhat Al-Nusra, known to kidnap and massacre people along sectarian lines and credibly alleged to use chemical weapons and engage in brazen deception, and heavily supported by Saudi Arabia - apparently as their leading force to take the capitol and the lead in forming a new government, should it ever come to that. The majority of the people identified as killed on 7 April (12+ out of 35) seem likely by name to be related to a rebel commander whose Douma Martyr's Brigade had crossed the Army of Islam and once led a failed uprising against them (details in a sloppy post by this unpaid working-class blogger who still plans to re-vamp that someday).

None of that comes through to Morley's readers; he summarizes all such background info into "Douma, a poor suburb" and "working-class neighborhood in greater Damascus." Oh, and this simple hamlet of regular Joes yearning for freedom was brutalized by "a ferocious Syrian government attack," he reminds us. It was widely cheered by Domanis in the end and got rid of "Army of Islam" finally. But we could remind about the Russian and Iranian help to the government and mention Hezbollah, or ignore the Saudi assistance to the "moderate" "freedom fighters" … to help the average leftist reader get their bearings. See, some "far right conspiracy theories" promoted by the Russians have been sowing confusing anti-war and anti-imperialist notions lately.

I haven't run across Mr. Morley before, so I don't have a clear view, but he sounds a bit like a Monibot-Proyect type pro-war "leftist" who cheers each of Wall Street's post-Iraq wars, and calls out "pro-Assad conspiracy theorists," and ignores as possible ALL crimes of the reactionary foreign-backed terrorists there (the most obvious ones, pragmatically, are admitted - but if possible, ONLY ones by ISIS, and ISIS might be created by Assad-Iran-Russia) (On Proyect on Douma).

Morley gives some background including this assurance: "There is little doubt that the Assad government is responsible for most of the reported chemical attacks in Syria, whether by chlorine or sarin gas." It's not the amount of doubt - debatable and smaller than it should be - as it is the validity of the doubts, and the quality of the best ones, having led to specific clues in the Douma case that will in the end unravel this terrible crime. But Morley is far from alone in having no clue about the detailed record and the counter-evidence showing how much is concealed and twisted to maintain a factually bankrupt narrative.

But this faith-based vanilla rendition of the big picture precedes his also relating the complaints and doubts raised recently by whistleblowers from inside the OPCW. Notably they suggest that chlorine gas was never even released, and for at least that reason, it seems there was perhaps no chemical attack. Then he gets to the open question he seeks to narrow the answers to:

So if the Douma attack was not launched by the Syria government, who did it?
The most detailed answer comes from the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, a British-based group of researchers who dispute narratives of Western media and governments. They hypothesize the attack was “a managed massacre of captives, with a chemical attack staged by placing gas cylinders at the site and possibly opening them to release chlorine.”
The problem with this scenario is that whistleblower Alex argues that there is insufficient evidence to say the victims died of chlorine poisoning. If Alex is correct, as the critics say, the 40-plus victims were not killed by chlorine. So how did they die?
That's quoted accurately from this early briefing note in June, 2018. But everything from here will be skewed by his getting this part wrong. That's not THE scenario, just one short-form rendering of it - an early one and not the clearest - that Morley misread. The scene or "attack" was staged, using chlorine cylinders set next to existing damage, then opened up or not (the evidence by now is confusingly mixed on that point - it seemed unclear but more likely back then). And that was staged TO conceal and re-explain all the people they had just killed in a managed massacre. The chlorine tanks weren't used to kill them; the faked aerial "attack" with them is how the managed massacre was marketed.

In fact as far as I recall no one with the WGSPM has never seriously proposed chlorine as likely to have killed those people. Most or all of us (I am a member) are smart enough to know it's rarely fatal like that. Just from the same linked article:
* "there is ample experience with industrial accidents, in which fatalities have been rare unless the quantity of chlorine released exceeds one ton (creating a cloud too big to run out of) or the victims are in a confined space."
* "Experts agreed that the images showing bodies of victims lying close together in an apartment building were not compatible with exposure only to chlorine, from which the victims would have been able to escape by moving to the windows or leaving the building. This is supported by experience of industrial accidents with chlorine in which those exposed are usually able to escape."

Reading comprehension. Context. It matters.

So we know the absence or presence of chlorine at the scene is not the central issue many take it for. With or without those valves being opened, another explanation for the fatalities at the heart of the matter must be sought - if one cares about answers to the kind of questions that already sent missiles flying into a sovereign nation.

That wasn't THE scenario, and the recent doubts over chlorine fatality were clearly not "THE problem with this scenario" in Morley's mind. He continues on to the Working Group's wacky, perhaps creepy, and baseless sources and total lack of any evidence - and he makes it look so easy:
The Working Group offers no explanation, only a link to a website called Monitor on Massacre Marketing, which posits that “the killers and stagers, who brought the victims to this abandoned home from another, nearby location where they were gassed, largely upside down.”
That's my site. The link he gives is not in that same article as he suggests (not that I saw going over and over it). My article at The Indicter is cited. But somewhere I'm sure they have linked to the mysterious washing of faces and hair as given, where that quote can be found. A better overview can be found at Douma's Mask of Death, though the full set of clues going into a "managed massacre" hypothesis is much broader, outlined in that briefing note and even better it more recent notes and articles. A better source for the mask signs is in slow progress, but for now that second link remains the single best connection to this important clue. But with a seemingly shallow understanding, Morley declares:
This scenario is wholly imagined by someone who has perhaps seen too many horror movies. It depends on ignorance of the attack site and the belief that the putative authors of a false flag operation—supposedly an al-Qaeda linked militia in retreat from a ferocious Syrian government attack—could kill dozens of people known to their neighbors by means unknown and transport the corpses through an urban war zone, and then lug a several-hundred-pound projectile up to the roof—all without detection by anyone. There is no eyewitness testimony to support such a scenario. 
OK - that's an imagined list of problems from a guy totally ignorant of all relevant details. I'm not going to explain every assumption involved in that and the better guesses available. I'm going to get to the "imagined" part. Yeah, I've seen too many horror movies - genuine video of terrible things done to people in Syria, and tried to assess it like a pathologist would, digging up sources to explain the processes and principles at work. It's warped my mind with all kinds of morbid and relevant FACTS about what kills people and how, and what happens to the body then and after. Valuable clues others miss can often be found at this level, though of course mistakes and confusion can turn up as well. I'm still not an expert, but have gotten quite good.

The visual signs on the victims in Douma are real clues of a kind never seen before - it would require a different answer that I looked for, always following the weird details that actually exist on the faces and skin and fluids of those poor people.

The camera still doesn't lie. Morley suggests I imagined every detail, perhaps just from being a twisted weirdo or snuff film enthusiast. Even the on-script FFM noticed the unusual "periorbital discoloration" and failed to explain it at all. But if you can see it AND offer a partial explanation, you must be imagining things?

As for witnesses - there are a few speaking to Russian investigators claiming to see bodies brought in a truck and unloaded. I can't trust words though - I could se an ideologue on that side inventing a story in lieu of real knowledge, so he could stick it to the Islamists and the White Helmets. A lot of apparent liars on the other side claim it was the sarin-chlorine that made people pass out and die, and lodge bizarre, conflicting, and dramatically evolving stories about it.

And then what about the one guy or local woman or kid who saw the staging for real and was shot dead by the militants? As far as we know there was one, or several. If so - would their never speaking up be evidence that nothing shady happened?

Again we hear the weight of a filled 120 liter cylinder, prob. about 168 kg/360 lbs. - that had to be moved up some stairs - presents a logically insurmountable problem. Recommended safety rules like "Don’t move cylinders by hand. That’s what your cylinder cart is for." would be like the Koran to these guys, right? Do we know they did NOT use a cart for the hauling? No, we don't. More safety tips: "Take care to avoid tipping or dropping a gas container. They can crack and explode. They can also break your foot." And it could dent the bed frame too - especially from the look of it, with a wrong sideways roll off the cart they used. And if there's a loose aerial harness costume on it, that might scratch the wood next to the dent, besides scratching you up on the way in. And from the scene at right, it seems likely some jihadists out there had scratches and smashed toes for a while after that day.
In a word, the “managed massacre” theory is preposterous.
That's just a perfectly disrespectful one-word summary to result from such an ass-backwards assessment. It's great for a theory that does sound kind of crazy on first blush. Just waste enough words you can hover right at first blush for whole paragraphs and you might seem justified in closing like that. Was that Morley's conscious intent here? It's what he wound up doing. Open questions I won't seek to narrow include: why did Mr. Morley choses to go this route and close this way, and write all this justification to back that? Was it really too hard to take the Working Group and its sources seriously enough to actually get what they were saying, prior to deciding it was all baseless nonsense?


  1. Link for "brought in a truck and unloaded (link)"


    Not familiar with Mr Morley but had the same kind of argument from some nutcase on Bellingcat: the victims had 50 friends round, JaI popped over to do some building work that everyone would witness etc. Hard to argue against arbitrarily added imaginary limitations, even added some plain lies about FFM "explanations" for the harness' journey.


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