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Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Jackson Hinkle vs. Vaush V. Douma Debate

July 20, 2021 
rough, incomplete

Jackson Hinkle-Vaush V. debate between 2 people I've barely or never heard of because I don't get out much, but I'm at these CW cases when I'm not out, so I see them when they pop in ... Back on July 9, and it's still percolating. 

The video from Hinkle's end: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIh5qLnMW-0 It's 3 hours plus, including some intro, and a lot I didn't watch after Vaush rage-quit only halfway in, over the "freaking out" people on video allegedly being alleged to be "crisis actors" - when they're actually figments of his imagination and vague memory. See below. 

It was fairly terrible, so I actually just skimmed the middle and end of this 1.5-hour barrage of Vaush burping "tell me.. tell me..." then as Jackson's trying to tell him, it's "which report ... which report ..." and there's only one damned report in discussion usually, and only so many time he really needs to scold Hinkle for supposedly saying it wrong. He cuts into almost every sentence to repeat these nonsense objections and hopefully break the opponent's train of thought.  And then again when Jackson tries to start answering halfway through a long post-question lecture, it's "are you going to listen?" 

Or sometimes not doesn't really answer, or is still trying to answer a question from a few back ... some conflating of what Vaush says to "video of a helicopter dropping the bomb," which he never did say. Etc. Less shouting would've be better on both sides, but what a douche, that Vaush. They both manage to be quiet sometimes, but Hinkle does it more sincerely. Neither won very well, but at least one of them seems genuinely driven by concern for truth and justice, and reasonably in tune with the few facts and the many open questions related to that. The other has some serious overall data analysis problems that naturally retard his analysis here.

All this muck for minutes on end and just too little for solid ground between - it stays swampy as far as I could watch - about halfway so far. but made enough waves it seems worth weighing in finally for anyone who feels the questions weren't answered.

1:26:30 Vaush says you can't question findings - even ridiculous ones like this - without providing what he accepts as a reasonable explanation. In other words, he says you can't do it, period. If it wasn't an attack, there has to be another reason behind the evidence. Both agreed at 1:26:36. But for a layman to have to say just what happened before you can consider there's a problem - and he doesn't seem to have even considered that yet - is just cowardly. Even I still can't be certain just what happened.

core points for Vaush, maybe reading off a list prepared by Patrick Hilsman, who had offered to help him brush up (the vision-impaired leading the blind):

* corpses were found with foam in their mouths

* people saw a helicopter over the city 

* how did the canisters get there at loc 2 and 4 

* why is there damage that's consistent w/the aerial deployment of these canisters, noting "no shrapnel" nearby

These are covered below in a different order with other points worked in. The foam one is maybe best/most important, but it's covered last. 

Hole in the Roof:

One Hinkle mess-up of some worry: a clip I saw on Twitter, from Vaush's end, showed Jackson citing the open/broken windows, building size, and hole at the ceiling as limits on chlorine accumulation. Broken windows could allow gas to escape, or set as high as they are, might as well let in a breeze that could affect the flow either way. Hard to say. The hole in the roof ... well, the gas wouldn't drift UP to go out that. Suggested: he doesn't (clearly, consistently) get that chlorine is well heavier than air and almost always just sinks. Vaush apparently did get this basic point and took pleasure in that (but to me the glee suggests new knowledge, like maybe a bit some coach just told him of). I don't take pleasure in seeing that. But in fact, that hole is how the gas got in (or would have got in, considering the dispute), from the roof-balcony the cylinder had been set on. 

Vaush then mentions the size of the building to clarify how far away the basement was from the hole (something about hearing/response), which adds to Hinkle's points; it would have to fill the 3rd floor, down the stairs to the 2nd floor, and down more to the ground floor, maybe out some windows on the way, then ENTIRELY OUT INTO THE STREET, before it could even possibly drift back down to the basement before anyone would smell it. 

That's an important detail of the building design, as also shown in any photo or video of the entrance, in the NYT-FA modeling, etc. Gas spread sketched onto that at right. Then the people take basically the exact reverse course, escaping the site then fleeing right back inside, only to be carried out stiff the next day. 

There was much noise about a video of... whatever - it got disputed. 1:33:30 If he knew the evidence well, Hinkle might have ridiculed it less and decoded what video Vaush refers to, poorly described at location 2 w/the "bomb" seen lodged in the hole. No drop shown, but poorly implied. Not a secret video - OP on Twitter still available. Cylinder here: already resting on/near the oddly placed metal slats and the intact rebar, apparently white on the underside from frost, due to active gas release - (this is still debated, but that's my take. In fact, it looks to be mostly empty by this time).

That's how I knew what he meant, but otherwise, he describes it all wrong. People "freaking out" makes you think hospital staged drama scene. But this video also shows activists "freaking out" and shouting at seeing the victims, who are all long dead. We only see that they are laying in creepy piles with bizarre facial stains and upsetting foam, as if they'd all been turned super-weird at the end, OR as if something else weird is going on. Seems to be filmed 10PM, 2.5 hours after the alleged attack. 

Vaush recalls it seeming like the victims - the same ones later seen dead - were filmed "freaking out" at the site they never left, as if the cylinder had just hit, and he can't believe they were crisis actors because the same exact people are later seen dead. The video exists, but there was NO SUCH ACTING in it, real or fake. All 35 are dead before first views. He really has a fuzzy take on these things.

people saw a helicopter

And we know because they said so. One even said he saw it drop a gas cylinder, which he saw falling, with "green" gas already pouring out as it fell. People say all kinds of things. More to the point, a helicopter was app. tracked somehow from Dumayr airbase. But I think that's all just organized claims by "spotters" - if there was a radar track, no one has shown its flight track passing over this building - probably because it gave the craft an alibi. Now we can't say for sure. Does the damage even suggest it?

how did the canisters get there?

The one he kept harping on - "Did they like look around for buildings that looked like they had been recently shelled and ran up there with like an empty gas canister and like dropped it there and like nobody saw this?"

Hinkle never did answer this very well. You say "my speculation" and toss out your maybes. But best answer here would've been: Yeah, basically. They like looked around for buildings that looked like they had been recently shelled and ran up there with like a full gas canister, with harness in one case (and not at loc 2), and like dropped it there and like nobody saw this, or they saw and didn't say, or were shot or arrested. 

Seriously - militants running Douma with an iron fist can't possibly CARRY a HEAVY ITEM that any 2 strong men COULD carry with some effort - and ok sure, they could but to also avoid the scrutiny of the few, largely sympathetic locals who remained... like they have some vibrant opposition media out filming all their actions and freely posting it ... also makes enough sense. Those are serious mental blockades in his mind, but obviously not in reality. They're mid-scale issue that would need resolved, and quite likely were, with no appeal to magic required. More related thoughts worked in below.

Henderson used bad measurements

56:30 Ian Henderson may have been there, but based his sketch for loc. 4 on other's work, and measured the cylinders wrong from a drawing. Vaush says, Jackson knows how wrong that is and duly laughs. The man says, and it hasn't been disputed, that he LED THE VISIT TO and MEASUREMENTS OF that site for the FFM, and also visited the place the cylinders were stored, measuring them directly. (UNSC testimony). He didn't get to location 2 is all. The later experts ... didn't go to any sites, worked off who knows what, and got a different and wrong size, apparently fudging all kinds of details to produce some ridiculous images.

Henderson didn't say no attack?

This came up. Henderson's report didn't rule out airdrop. It said manual placement was more likely. It seems professionally understated, but it's what he says. And it is. If Vaush thinks that can still be an "attack" ... clearly not by government forces, and clearly not the same "attack" everyone else means. Where the hell would he be going with that? Manual placement means fakery, which means "how then DID these people die?" and that, I think is the question Henderson was pissed off to see papered over. But otherwise...

damage consistent w/airdrop?

Jackson Hinkle starting out right: Don't explain what's not true. "It wasn't consistent ..." and then he's mega-interrupted and derailed. Indeed: loc 2 cylinder has some deformation, but not the right kind and degree to fit the alleged impact. And the scene has clear primary fragmentation marks - despite the FFM report assuring us there was absence of them. 

Exploration: https://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com/2019/05/douma-location-2-explosives-damage.html 

Everyone agrees that's what these are, and the "shrapnel" will be buried in those holes. Some say it's from other damage somewhere else (Patrick Hilsman, recently for one) - but look at that narrow band - it's tight, having radiated very little from very nearby - on the other walls the marks are a bit more spread out but still dense. And they appear on all 4 of these inner walls (but just barely on the east wall, mostly overshot due to impact angle that puts frags low on the west and north walls. This is from a mortar shell (or similar) impacting that damaged balcony corner where the cylinder supposedly hit, perhaps to kill a sniper at the low north wall who was slowing someone's advance, at some point. 

Realize Jaysh al-Islam inspired a lot of rebellion, which they always crushed. Battles happened here over the years. Government forces hadn't really been in Douma sniper scopes since late 2012, until the end ... no Army push this far into town prior to the surrender, nor even likely within mortar range. Maybe this was a holdout of the Douma Martyr's Brigade of Commander Bakriyeh? 1/3 of the people found dead here had that family name. Some, most, or all of the others were related by blood or marriage. Hm.

explored: https://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com/2018/05/bakriyeh-family-deaths.html 

OK corner hit, detonation, disc-shaped spray of fletchettes/fragments, Then an explosive crater below that, centered on its path - upper rebar passed around by the blast wave, but the lower layer, less deeply set, was able to flay out ~130deg t the window side, and concrete sprayed almost sideways into the upper walls - hence we have secondary fragmentation marks (another thing the FFM denied for us). "spalling" is from shockwaves in the rebar grid. NO MECHANICAL OBJECT GOING THUNK WILL EXLAIN ALL THIS.  

There is quite widespread rubble that appears old - household items and a small fire have been set on top of it. The fire MAY have been to melt out the fusible plug in the valve and release the gas, though it's been snapped off by first views (can't see if it's missing the plug or smoke-coated, or gone from the start - plug issue explained here w/some other good points). 

Anyone who doesn't get any of these points probably shouldn't run with those scissors. And I don't have time here to explain them all, but a mention ... some more links filled in later, optional follow-up ... etc. Hinkle mentioned James Harkin and an expert's issue of that valve snapping too cleanly. I don't know. I suspect it was done later on, but can't really say. Not a headline issue. Fuck James Harkin. He's a hack. The article has a few good points anyway (the OPCW inspector he talked to still makes sense in general).

Loc 4: noticing recently unclear damage, app. no frag marks (?), maybe related to a collapsed wall of the neighboring building - lots of rubble all over the roof w/no other good explanation (new area, unsettled). The hole is too small, if only by a bit, to allow the cylinder with the unprotected valve and displaced harness testified by the harness deformation - as shown by Henderson, who again LED THE VISIT TO and MEASUREMENTS OF that site for the FFM (UNSC testimony). Also Michael Kobs had modeled it just the same prior to that. Besides too short, the hole is kind of too wide as well. They picked a good pre-made hole, but these things only get so good.


Still I can see debating the size and angle as reasonable. It looks to have hit solid earth somewhere, but just the roof then the floor could fit in even reasonable minds. It was apparently placed on the bed, a bounce as alleged making little sense considering the vertical fall alleged to bounce so far laterally, and it's quite a high bounce and not on a very straight line - at least to the shower, then headboard - the curved footboard appears scraped-up as if it hit there too, or like as they tripped into the shower the guy holding that end dropped it, but in a controlled way so it slid into the bed frame instead of his toes. (note the same curve was already there in the footboard design - its the dust-catching scratches that stand out). 

We also have a chipped door jamb, recently it seems something heave was dropped on it. The stairs have rusty scrapes, perhaps old, and some fresh-looking chips (images around widely, but from Russian TV). Also someone, at some time, may have taken those flayed-out bits of the harness and tied them more snugly with some rusty wire - at least one stretch with some sharp custom bends and curves is left lazily resting there. Huh. That could help make it more portable. Some thoughts, anyway.  

No Attack? Gas Release?

And interestingly, this one apparently had its valve manually opened and closed at least twice before inspectors got there, Note in these 3 sequential images over several days the distinct chlorine colored stain (top) turns brown when it oxidizes (middle, and old/continuous drips on the moved pillow were already brown) - then there's more green all at once on top of that, and the bed has collapsed, and the metal harness is far more rusted than it was - when inspectors arrived, they found it like that but a bit browner, NOT then leaking, yet still half full a week later. Clearly it's not a speed of release issue but a FREQUENCY of release issue. 

Brown, chlorine coated disposable gloves were found just outside the door - too flimsy to have been from the carrying, but some later handling of a sticky, gas-coated part, like the valve - app. the lead-zinc type. These were tested and yielded one of the highest "background" levels for chlorinated compounds found AND reported by the FFM:

Gloves from stairs
19SDS-L4
20180425178819
chloride: 17,000, ppm (IC)
zinc: 1,500 ppm (ICP-MS)

A point that's hard to get, even for Aaron Mate, or even for may of my more involved colleagues, let alone Jackson Hinkle: chlorine was apparently released. Why lug these up there and then fail to just open the valve? But we hear only normal, trace levels were found, and so the embarrassing levels were just omitted. But if that was the finding, it raises some questions what else we're seeing at right, and it was outright replaced with some rather high levels - about what I'd expect going by the visuals. And the camera still doesn't lie. So ... what? It's an issue, even if no one else agrees with me on that. 

Exploration: Monitor on Massacre Marketing: OPCW Whistleblower: Chlorine Levels (libyancivilwar.blogspot.com)

Is it possible someone way back misread parts per million as parts per billion, and that just got set in stone for Whelan and whoever else? Or did they compare the background samples to normal background levels? (we hear there were no background samples, but ... what else is going on there? Or at location 2 with some high results too, and that frosting cylinder?)

Even if one doesn't get that point - most don't - I still advise caution on "no attack" claims meaning no gas release. If this is "background levels," fine, but it might be irrelevant, as it seems to me like the levels you get releasing a lot of chlorine - the level that could even be fatal ... depending on some important details.

Why are people there with foam in their mouths? 

Mr. Vaush V suggests because chlorine. And it can cause this, but ... he doesn't get just how. Simple stuff: all it does is turn to hydrochloric acid on contact with water. Everything else follows. No paralysis, no nerve agent, convulsions, sudden death, numbness, or unconsciousness usually occur. In the concentrations expected, at worst it would badly burn their eyes and lungs. The damage slowly causes mucous production and perhaps bleeding in the airways - edema fluids that BEGINS building seriously ~30 minutes or more and usually worsens only gradually over some hours. This would blend fluids and air (in & out streams randomly mixed) into bubbles that would pile up deeper over each breath, forming into a foam. As gas exchange is disrupted and oxygen levels drop low, the victim will feel fatigue, a nasty headache, etc. from cerebral hypoxia. But this takes a while.

The pulmonary edema gets fatal usually several hours after exposure, but then most exposure is brief. As the OPCW's first try experts had said (redacted June meeting, leaked minutes), the kind of extreme foam seen usually takes more than 4 hours to develop (more than the 3-4 hours they were given as attack-to-images timespan - but it was really more like 2.5 to 3 hours). And they may have referred to the usual onetime exposure before escape. In a post-WWI study, all deaths that were observed at field hospitals happened around "the end of the second hour after exposure" or later, and "usually death did not occur until after the lapse of several hours." Although some acute cases killed on the battlefield were unknown, 90 minutes to death was guessed. (MacPherson et al 1923 p. 181?) 

Now if people chose to stay and keep breathing it ... or were somehow trapped with it ... concentrations greater than 430 PPM are often fatal within 30 minutes of constant exposure (PHR). That's high but maybe possible in Douma (maybe not ... don't quote me on that). A death that quick is unlikely with the degree of foam seen, and probably with the very little blood that's seen. But perhaps.

The question the deniers can't answer well is WHY these people sat there suffocating in pain and terror, or "freaking out," watching their kids do the same, for 30-60-90 minutes until dead. I could be more philosophical about that if I'd made myself watch the whole 90-minute Hinkle-Vaush debate, but it just ups my point: I skipped much, got what I needed, and escaped the toxic place. 

As soon as the Douma victims felt the burning, they'd want to escape. They weren't trapped and wouldn't be paralyzed. If it was too dark or they were gas-blinded (sometimes your eyes close and you just can't open them), they could feel their way out. If shelling, they would take their chances, wait for a gap etc. Usually, everyone leaves the scene for fresh air, and nobody dies. Precedent (my own work, feel free to use):

In WWI they all tried to escape the gas, braving enemy fire, but the gas spanned maybe for miles. Most died in field hospitals but some in the gas. Some shot themselves. One cut his own throat to speed it up (MacPherson et al. p.394). These folks in Douma ... they ran outside, back in, up deeper into the gas and then, instead of reversing course to go back outside, activist "Abu Homam" said “we believe they tried to rinse themselves in vain. Eventually they must have realised it was over so they drew closer together and died." (The Times) Eventually. Their hair looks as if faces and hair were washed ~15 minutes before the 10pm video we should know by now.

So why bodies there w/foam? They were killed with a similar agent somewhere else they could NOT escape from. We'd call it a gas chamber. Well, deniers wouldn't. 

Then the bodies of these gassed captives were manually placed not that far inside the door of this site with the manually placed gas cylinder. Noting quite a few have stocking feet with no dust on the soles. E.g. W4 just inside the entrance, who seems dragged feet first up to the removed door to the ground floor washroom. 

To escape the basement where all reports agree they had been sheltering, they'd have to pass this spot between basement and ground floor inside - exit, then back in - and no stocking foot prints seem to appear. Several others wearing boots do. Hard to be sure when and why, or why the stretcher. Adding or removing bodies? Woman being carried in headfirst, or out feet first? Work interrupted why? 



White Helmets: they had their staged hospital scenes. This is well known. Relation to the gas chamber mass murder I suspect: unclear. But their rescue work leaves some to be desired. Microphone drop, White Helmets style. 


Note: just been reviewing the timeline - McIntyre has that, whatever he has w/the climate stuff. This movement scene is after a video posted 00:20 on April 8 (but maybe filmed earlier), and before the photo's posting at 1:41 am.   


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Ghouta 2013 reports: Scott Lucas Debunk Non-Efforts

Adam Larson

July 13, 2020 (rough, incomplete)

<< Ghouta 2013 Reports 

Compared to the first debunk efforts, this part 2 includes a far less substantive response: one baseless, a priori dismissal, out of 11 people and a group that were asked. And just look who it comes from...

1) Approach 1: Ignore the report

1.1) War crime denier, pants on fire

These rare words on our reports start from Aaron Maté's tweets of June 19 that started: 

"Well before OPCW's Douma cover-up, allegations of Syrian gov't chemical attacks made no sense. False-flags by sectarian death squad "rebels" did." 

Looking for mainstream media supports - and there aren't very many - he reaches for the generally credible veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. "In Ghouta 2013, Sy Hersh exposed that US intel knew the "rebels" did it. A new open-source study argues how:" https://rootclaim-media.s3.amazonaws.com/syria2013evidence.pdf

Aaron added links to Hersh's reporting on the attack at the London Review of Books (Whose sarin? - The red line and the rat line) and said "Obama later confirmed Hersh when he recalled that the US intel on Ghouta was not "slam dunk" -- a deliberate choice of words." (https://theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/04/the-obama-doctrine/471525/)

Professor Scott Lucas responded June 19 : 

"Even by @AaronJMate's low standards, this is a dumpster fire of War Crimes denial.

1. Hersh was discredited, even before publication by misguided @LRB, for his poor sourcing, false claims, & conspiracy theory --- Which is why  @NYBooks  & others rejected piece

2. More dissection of Hersh's misinfo on #Syria sarin attack: https://eaworldview.com/2014/04/syria-special-dissecting-hershs-insurgents-chemical-weapons-attacks-sequel/ 

3. Only a buffoon would say "#Obama...confirmed Hersh" that #EastGhouta was "false flag"

#Obama said there was substantial evidence of #Assad regime responsibility 

3. What #Obama says in April 2016 is that as, of August 31, 2013, #Assad responsibility for #EastGhouta sarin attack had not been 100% established

That's 1 reason why he emphasized need for UN inspections, which were being hindered by Assad regime

And finally "4. Beyond @AaronJMate's disinfo, what is interesting is his move from denier of #Syria chemical attacks to position that chemical attacks were "false flags" by anti-#Assad forces"

In other words, he's now aligned w Assad regime, #Russia State, & fringe conspiracy theorists.

1.2) Conflicts of Interest 

First, understand a bit about Scott Lucas. Current Twitter bio: professor of American studies at the University of Birmingham, Founder @EA_WorldView . Co-Founder @AmericaUnfltrd / @Dive_Politics . Prof Emeritus @UniBirmingham . Associate, @Clinton_InstUCD . Political analyst on TV and radio. 

His strongly interventionist and propagandistic EA Worldview is a spin-off of Enduring America (The Guardian still notes Lucas is the "founder of the Enduring America website on US politics and foreign policy"). Originally, as I recall it seeming, Enduring America was a post-9/11 pro-war site with the Pentagon as its logo. A writer at the old EA, James Miller, had in 2013/14 denied the genocidal Adra Massacre by Jaysh al-Islam and Al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat al-Nusra. For that I said Miller could endure my urine. 

And at one point, Enduring America's founder prof. Lucas would also be a scholar affiliated with a Turkey-based Toran Center, which was co-directed by Majdi Nema, the former spokesman for and and militant with the same Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jaysh al-Islam, whose massacres and crimes Lucas denies as possible to the present day (see Douma, Academics and Mass-Murder Coverup). In fact, one of those is under immediate discussion - August 21, 2013 in Eastern Ghouta. See these infographics, and some further details below.

And here's an excerpt from my 2nd report Lucas and the rest have even less to say about, on the motive and capabilities of Jaysh al-Islam (then called Liwa al-Islam),. From section 4.2.3 "What Does Nema Know?"

It’s not exactly clear who would be involved in something as huge as possibilities 3 or 4, but to launch 
these rockets in the identified area, they would include militants that were part of - or at least allied with - Liwa al-Islam (LI). In tacit partnership with Al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat al-Nusra, LI had by mid-2013 positioned themselves to lead any march on Damascus, like if the 2011 Libya scenario were repeated. Therefore, it is they who arguably stood the most to gain from Obama’s “red line” being crossed like it was on August 21 2013.

And it is their leader Zahran Alloush (below, 2nd from right) who was excited, on August 13, that "the final steps in preparing a new surprise for the regime are about to be completed.” He was reportedly at a meeting of opposition forces in Turkey, which was held in Antakya, on August 13-14, as separately reported by Yosef Bodansky. He added that regional commanders were briefed there on “a war-changing development” which was “imminent” and would “lead to a U.S.-led bombing of Syria” and an “escalation of the fighting.” Bodansky heard that prediction came from senior commanders after a higher-level meeting in Istanbul, and that increased weapon shipments followed.

These reports could be a mix of truth, coincidence, and even fake news, and this part is just imagined; for all we know, this Istanbul meeting was real and discussed a bold prediction by commander Alloush,“a tip from his mole” that Assad was planning a huge sarin attack around the 21st likely to kill over 1,000. Consider that UN-OPCW inspectors were set to arrive 4-5 days later, and a week later came a surprise for some: that red line was crossed in a truly massive and undeniable way with hundreds dead and sarin quickly “confirmed” by those inspectors. U.S.-led military intervention was seriously threatened for the first time, and only averted under extraordinary circumstances.

LI had serious financial resources and enjoyed friendly relations with Jabhat al-Nusra, who were reportedly producing sarin right there in E. Ghouta. Therefore, Liwa al-Islam controlled both the area the sarin was made in and the spot the sarin rockets were seemingly fired from. It is Alloush’s LI who may have brazenly implicated themselves in a video launching that very attack. And it is they who have some 3,000-5,000 largely civilian prisoners left unaccounted-for.

It is therefore ironic that France already has a possible suspect in custody, even as they are to consider new punishments against Damascus over this crime.

And Scott Lucas in a sense works for that very suspect, or did. Majdi Nema's arrest likely ended that relationship, if nothing else before or after did. Operations may continue, but Toran Center activity on Facebook stopped soon after January 16, 2020, just before his arrest, and their Twitter account does about the same. And to be fair, it's not clear the Toran center ever did much. What's interesting is how Prof. Lucas was willing to be a part of it.

1.3) Assessing the Response

Lucas does have a point in his response to Aaron Maté, limited as it is. We can't be sure what Obama knew and thought, but he probably didn't mean to confirm Hersh's claims or implications, per se. That would mean admitting his "red line" threat/offer had sparked a terrorist massacre of innocents, which he nearly bombed a sovereign nation for. He would not likely admit to that ever. However if he knew the evidence was for Assad's guilt was super-weak and may fall apart some day, he might wisely allow for an 'outside chance' he was wrong. And the more we learn, the more it seems he should have had major doubts.

But Lucas makes it sound like Obama was about 99% sure he did not enable a mass murder, carried out by Prof. Lucas' Toran-AQ buddies. He makes it sounds like only Assad supposedly preventing inspection of ... something ... kept Obama from snagging that last one percent of certainty. And so it must that Assad did it, and everything to the contrary (including our forensic analysis - which again he didn't even address) must be wrong. 

I didn't review the EA Worldview piece and I don't know offhand all the claims Hersh made in his Ghouta articles, or how they all panned out. I've seen some claims from his intelligence sources fail to even make sense (notably re:Khan Sheikhoun, 2017), and don't take any of it as gospel. But I don't just toss it aside either. One detail that still seems possibly relevant is the Iraqi chemist Hersh heard about, making sarin for Jabhat Al-Nusra in Eastern Ghouta, in mid-2013. I asked if that specific claim was specifically debunked, or "do we dismiss that possibility in a baby-bathwater sense?" He didn't answer. I don't think it's been debunked, and it might well be true. That might've been Ziyad Tariq Ahmad's sarin the inspectors found with the unique "chemical fingerprint." See Whose Hexamine? 

The first use of this particular sarin was against Syrian Arab Army troops and mostly Shia civilians in Khan al-Assal, Aleppo, on March 19, 2013, just a few days after opposition forces had been driven out of the town. One soldier and 19 civilians were killed, but Jabhat al-Nusra was blamed, and it took a long time for Western powers to realize or admit that was sarin (as Syria and Russia had suspected or claimed from the start) When they finally checked the impurities that had the Russians calling it "cottage industry" stuff, these signs were known. They'd been confirmed in other cases including another sarin attack on SAA troops in Jobar on August 24, 3 days after the Ghouta sarin attack. And it happened about 400 meters from the opposition-controlled site from which - as we just proved - the sarin rockets were fired 3 days earlier. (see here or my new report for some details) And of course the sarin in the infamous 12 volcanos used to kill 1,000+ also matched the stuff used in Khan al-Assal and Jobar. Must be the regime! 

The same stuff had already turned up in Saraqeb at least, but after Ghouta failed to elicit a regime-change war that might let Jaysh al-Islam seize power in Damascus, there was a long and telling pause in its use. Finally that same telltale sarin would resurface in Al-Nusra administered al-Latiminah and Khan Sheikhoun in 2017, so "Assad" could find out if Trump had his own "Red Line." 

Having learned he did, almost exactly a year later on April 7, 2018, the same sarin was supposed to turn up in Douma, where Jaysh al-Islam was facing complete defeat even in their last bastion. Just before their inevitable surrender and the release of ~200 largely-civilian prisoners (out of an estimated 3,500-5,000 they once had) "Assad" attacked again. 35 piled bodies were found a few floors below a manually placed chlorine cylinder, as some kind of advance on early claims of 180-200 killed by sarin. Prof. Lucas seemed especially sure of that: to Turkish TRT World April 24, 2018 he said "From the multi-sources, I have Doctors, activists, Citizen Journalists there was a stronger agent used, this was not just chlorine used in Douma." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYOLXpzj0vw (props to Michael Martin). He doesn't mention any terrorist sources, but it's true that many others made claims pointing that way, including US officials saying they had sarin-positive urine samples. But something went wrong and it never did get released to be found at the only place where (it's now claimed) a significant number of people died. Only chlorine was found, and that at disputed levels, and only 43 died. 

Okay ... Lucas had no answer to the most relevant question over his general non-answer. He also had no word at all on the new study that really adds and "explains how" in fact the foreign-backed terrorists - most likely the same ones Lucas is affiliated with - were responsible (as they would be in Douma, 2018 and as they were in Adra, 2013, and beyond). He could only nitpick the supporting sources.

2) Approach 2: say random bad things about the report 

2.1) The little oxygen he could spare for our "scam"

Rootclaim tweet June 18 linked to the report and summary, asking "Does anyone have a response or rebuttal?" This was one of several bulk alerts sent out, addressed to these 12 accounts, mainly promoters of the establishment narratives on Syria:  

@bellingcat Bellingcat, the western-funded open-source investigators famously founded by...

@EliotHiggins Eliot Higgins, who would say in 2018: "The presence of hexamine at every confirmed Sarin attack shows the hexamine is part of the Syrian government’s manufacturing process."  

@Brian_Whit Brian Whitaker: Journalist, former Middle East editor of the Guardian newspaper. Author of 'Arabs Without God: Atheism and Freedom of Belief in the Middle East'. Occasional expert expert on the OPCW coverup scandal for Democracy Now, doxxer of whistleblowers at the heart of the scandal, Bellingcat ally  

@ChrisDYork Chris York Journalist/Студент. Formerly senior editor and reporter @HuffPostUK. Formerly there he engaged in almost insanely frequent attacks on independent analysis, especially the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media

@Josiensor Josie Ensor US Correspondent @Telegraph . Previously in the Middle East. Recipient of Marie Colvin Award. Associate Fellow at @ICSR_Centre

@_RichardHall Richard Hall British journalist covering America for @Independent after a long stint in Beirut. Formerly with @AFP and @TheWorld

@KreaseChan Kristyan Benedict Amnesty International UK Campaigns Manager: Crisis & Tactical, Syria. 

@DanKaszeta - Dan Kaszeta: US Secret Service, supposed chemical weapons expert, Bellincat ally, 2nd person (after OPCW insider JP Zanders) to assert w/roughly zero reason that Syria used hexamine in its sarin production, implicating them for the many attacks where that was found, including Ghouta.

@tobiaschneider - Tobias Schneider: Peace & Security ∙ Research Fellow at @GPPi ∙ Edit @SyriaContext ∙ @SAISStrat alum

@gregkoblentz Gregory Koblentz Associate Professor and Director of Biodefense Graduate Program in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. supposed chemical weapons expert, Bellingcat ally

@MsJulieLenarz Director of Social Media at American Jewish Committee @AJCGlobal . Background in Islamist extremism and counter-terrorism. 

AND of special note is @ScottLucas_EA: Like the rest, he had nothing to say at first. But then a "Lex Brody" popped in 5 days later to note the complete lack of reply from all 12 addressed accounts. A gif declared it was so quiet you could "here a cricket fart in here." Lucas alone finally replied, to finally address the report itself: 


"12 accounts realized that this is a scam operation, combining grift and disinformation." 

LB: So you take time to call it a scam operation, but you can't include one link that discredits this analysis.

SL: There's no analysis to discredit and I don't intend to give any more oxygen for scammers to breathe. If you're interested in actual information, (spam-links own site)

That's all he had to say. No one else spoke up, except for Dan Kaszeta who had popped in to reply to Lex Brody in the middle of that exchange: 


Lex didn't seem sure either, but it's because he was tagged in by Rootclaim. And that was because ... well, I'm not sure exactly why, but again, Kaszeta was the second person (after OPCW insider JP Zanders) to assert with roughly zero reason that Syria used hexamine in its sarin production, implicating them for the many attacks where that was found, including Ghouta. He first told this to Eliot Higgins, and then it was picked up by the NEW YORK TIMES, and remains influential in convincing the masses of the establishment's regime-change line. His disinformation here has essentially been proven wrong. But he can't be bothered about it now. 

2.2) Follow-up? Nope.

I was curious how they had come to this realization. The only specific I've seen to declare "disinformation" was its being called "recycled disinformation" by a few people. That was due to a flawed impression of "recycling," caused by poor reading comprehension on the part of wheel-spinning KJohnson, and "disinformation" slapped on for no valid reason whatsoever. (see debunks post 1 - Saar meant what he had just said in our discussion in March was based on seeing Michael's 2020 report just then, and initially disagreeing with major points - he never said that Rootclaim's analysis from 2017 was based on Michael's 2020 report, because that's not true and makes no sense)

As I formalized my response to Lucas et al. in later tweets 

On "Grift": maybe Rootclaim is meant to [be] developed and sold, if that makes sense (?). If so, using flawed "disinformation" to corroborate their method would be unwise. Either way my interest is in the claim of "disinformation." ...

That takes MISinformation + deceptive intent. While the latter is SUGGESTED (the lies are for "grift"), it's not really shown, and - more to the point - the information has never been shown to be amiss in the first place, and it's seeming like it never will be.

My challenge to Lucas and the other 11 - completely unanswered.

Of course @ScottLucas_EA sees no "analysis" in our Ghouta reports - just "a scam operation, combining grift and disinformation." Nevermind the forensic analysis he can't address, can he even spare a breathe to explain that claim? Free platform ->

Of course he rejected that. Re-linking the report and Lucas' review I asked the other 11 accounts if they had anything to add (actually sent only 7/10 ): "a last call for any words before I add to my debunks post"  - "who realized what & how?" - "So far Prof. Lucas is here, basically defending his boss' boss. He's spoken for the rest of you. Anything to add?"

He was talking about the detailed, irrefutable research of people he generally accuses of dishonesty and distant loyalty to Bashar al-Assad, "deniers" of war crimes, detestable people. He says it's wrong and a con. Pointing to his gross conflict of interest and his total lack of reason to dismiss our work, I again asked the others. And they generally seemed happy with letting his few words speak for them. They're of roughly the same mind as  this disinformation-spewing "academic" just 2 people removed from the probable mastermind of the chemical massacre he insists on denying. Is that a good mind to be like? 

They all have stuck with a silent treatment of tacit denial - so far. But I think things will change on that account, and this story won't be so ignorable for much longer. There will surely be a part 3 - at least - in this series on debunk attempts, slurs, and the like. Stay tuned, or remember to tune back in.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Ghouta Reports: First Debunk Efforts

June 26, 2021

last edits July 2, 4

Our 2021 Ghouta reports (overview post) will be remembered as marking a further shift in public awareness about the dirty war on Syria and the OPCW's scandalous role in it. This work re-opens and solidifies questions over the alleged sarin attack of August 21 2013 that killed unclear hundreds of civilians in Eastern Ghouta. We've now essentially proven the opposition did it, not the Syrian government as widely believed following on a rather imbalanced UN-OPCW investigation. 

The who and how come into play, so in review: core work by amateur researchers Michael Kobs, Chris Kabusk, myself (Adam Larson), and some others who've collaborated along the way, with other public findings referenced. The core work is forensic video analysis: impact site geolocation, impact / damage analysis, trajectory estimation, trajectory crossover area survey, correlating details between videos and satellite views, etc. This has been in slow development for years before the video-site match in March sparked the final crush review of the visual evidence, tested with 3D modeling and measurements, etc. 

This same video match inspired Saar Wilf of Rootclaim to step in. He helped review and filter the mass of analysis we had accumulated, and the next mass that was generated over a few months of review by direct message on Twitter. This led to the first report Saar had hosted at Rootclaim on June 18 (promo tweet). Their own prior analysis of the overall evidence, with some formulas and stuff applied, had found opposition guilt 87% probable. The new findings revised that to 96% probable and cited with resolving the issue and confirming Rootclaim's assessment.  

It's surely not perfect and open to challenge, but our core forensic work is quite solid, now ready for whatever scrutiny it might face. It's been a bit of a quiet start, but the word has been passed on by The Gray Zone's Aaron Maté (Twitter) and many others who suspected as much or were open to the idea. There has been a bit of negative attention from the other side, and more is expected in time. They'll want to refute the findings and show just what is wrong with this picture: 


They'll need show that wrong, or if that seems unlikely, they might look for a handy shortcut to discount the whole notion or to just ignore the analysis altogether. Indeed, the first debunk efforts presented below simply suggest the core work must be wrong - none of them has yet tried to show any actual errors in it.

I could have just listed the points and simple answers in a clean list, but some of these answers have levels that demand my usual rambling relation and have some fun with it. 

Johnson: disinfo recycling con, not knowing things, etc.

June 18 report 1 was released at Rootclaim (promo tweet about 7am). K Johnson @ASpinOfTheWheel was on it quick, and about 3 hours later explained for the benefit of Bellingcat's Aric Toler, who was hiding behind a rock: "The RootClaim work was done by Saar Wilf & based on the nonsensical work Kobs & Larson did years ago." Then a few hours later KJ said to me: "It is all a con. He used your stuff in his original "work" then helped you with the latest fabrications as if that validates his earlier work." 

That's a strong claim to deduce just from that, but people like strong claims. Idrees Ahmad apparently cites this find (see below) as the only debunk he needed to write off our study as disinformation. Patrick Hilsman would later find it unbearably hilarious but as I replied "yeah KJ is very confused, but it's not nice to laugh." If Saar Wilf were engaged in a years-long confidence scheme, he probably would not admit it so carelessly right as we set to finalizing it. And he never refers to Rootclaim as "I." But more to the point...

Rootclaim's analysis was first posted in early 2017 (Jan. 8 tweet). Michael's report it's supposedly based on ...not sure exactly. On Aug. 14 2019 he linked to a short start just explaining impact site 4. The report with all impacts included was only sometime last year, 2020. (add July 4: he says the latest version saved on is hard drive is dated Sept. 22 - there was I think an initial version w/an error I spotted that he replaced, all within a few days ... about then sounds right.)

I was apparently still unaware of it as of this Feb. 25 post here that cited his kick-ass map based on 5 impacts, and noting Chris Kabusk's huge contributions. From the first 3, then 4, 5, and 6 located impacts and basic trajectory readings, we did have a decent idea of the firing spot from 2017, and it was getting very close by mid-late 2019. Inset: from my Jan. 2020 "falsely fingered" post based on 6 impact (spots), and testing the Al-Jazeera angles from a "revised firing area" that was ~40-50m due north of the actual launch site we would decide on a year later.

Anyway, we did some of that stuff "years ago," but not enough to merit Rootclaim absorption until right when you can see Saar taking an interest in March, only about 3 months before KJ's deduction.  I challenge anyone to find where Rootclaim cited any of the earlier work at the time. If I were shown proof of that, I'd say "huh. They were already citing a bit of it. Cool"

I wasn't clear at first what Johnson meant. Me: Checking back to see if you might have any basis in reality to form this wrong idea, it seems maybe. @Rootclaim can maybe clarify, but this part refers to the recent work, and I'm pretty sure it was added recently, like after we did this work?

This was included as one section in their pre-existing and updated analysis, seemingly as one of the updates. Rootclaim confirms"This is the new analysis, updated with the new findings, reaching 96% for an opposition attack. The previous version without it, was at 87%." 

But Johnson was referring to Saar's "admission" that he based their whole analysis - all sections, from 2017 forward - on that forensic summary published only in 2020. And noting here everything he or they wrote gives citations, including to UN-OPCW reports, videos, government statements, mainstream news reports (CNN, BBC, etc.), Bellingcat, Snopes, WhoGhouta, CFR, HRW, etc. The subject matter ranges from the 1996 Tokyo sarin attack to official statements just cited for context or to challenge, to basic rocket ID and all kinds of things "our work" on trajectories has nothing to do with. 

But he did say "everything I wrote" was based on that report. At my request, Saar clarified "This just refers to what I wrote in the thread." Everything he had just said in our Twitter discussion was based on what he saw in that report ... and partly disagreed with. You can see the coordination behind our con here, apparently falling apart just before it came together:

Saar: I think locations west of the highway are quite unlikely as they could easily be beyond range.
Additionally, the impact locations don't provide accurate trajectories except for the field, which is a very clear North. (citing WhoGhouta analysis)

In at least these two tweets I explain how no, that one's actually unclear/contested, and I was only 90% convinced at the time but app. it pointed more NW as do all the others, so east of the highway is in fact what's excluded. Impact site 4 was instead the key trajectory, Michael had devised the best reading yet, and so on. In fact I recall being exasperated at Saar's initial response, but it was very brief - he quickly caught up, and soon we were all "copying" each other and stuff. As Sarr added in reply to me and for KJ's benefit (same tweet): "My objections to the trajectories were based on the early version of the document. Since then I understood the evidence better, and you provided more trajectories. Today I agree you are right." It was pretty cool. 

Or: It was all conspiracy from March to now, and zero before that.

Johnson kept spinning on and on about Rooclaim's supposedly flawed analytical methods, and trying to sow discord (pointing out where their analysis has disagreed with some of us, how Saar is Israeli and we should be infighting), and how we don't know anything, are bound to fail, and so on. I kept reminding them this is an issue of forensic analysis that seemed really good last any of us saw.

Me:  we made no errors you can demonstrate, just one to presume (or to imply, etc.)  

KJ agrees "There isn't anything to demonstrate..." and hence no demonstration of the errors that don't exist, but then neither does any correct analysis exist - it's just some convenient void "... because it is all made up. You wasted your life on obsessions & you try waste other people's time by running after you. You don't know physics & you don't know anything about statistical inference." 

Ahmad: disinfo recycling con, trollism

Next comes one of the regime-change camp's senior attack trolls, Idrees Ahmad @im_PULSE Replying to Rootclaim on June 19

A “study” produced by two twitter trolls? Way to establish your credibility. For those who think the events of August 2013 are somehow shrouded in confusion, this should clear everything up." (links to his own article at NewLines magazine, where he's a senior editor - see below)

Rootclaim: The article you attach doesn't contain any valuable evidence, just claims and interpretations. We now have clear-cut video evidence placing the opposition in the launch spot of the Aug 21st attack....

Idrees AhmadNo you don’t. You are recycling 8year old disinformation from a notorious twitter troll.



The recycling of "8-year old disinformation" likely refers to the bold claims of his ally K Johnson a day earlier, with the "years" now specified as eight (his own guess?). As shown above, that was no lead at all. Maybe he has some other basis but he didn't say, suggesting the basis was weak - like KJ's theory.

He adds nothing further but declares we have no findings of value. He didn't show where this whole case was compiled by any one of us 8 years ago or at any time. He doesn't say what was ever shown incorrect about it (to make it MISinformation) or demonstrated deceptive intent (making it DISinformation). He shows none of it wrong at all, just dismisses it because it's politically incorrect or, as he phrases that, it was done by "trolls."

Ahmad and Higgins: already "cleared up"

As noted above. Idrees Ahmad offered his own article at NewLines to "clear everything up" for anyone who might still be confused enough to take our analysis seriously. Rootclaim replied "the article you attach doesn't contain any valuable evidence." That's putting it mildly. It's a steaming pile of logic-impaired disinformation - which Ahmad excreted for us after eating some other peoples' steaming piles. Summarized from my partial review, just sticking to the parts relevant to our report and see as needed this graphic: 

The NewLines piece effuses how Eliot Higgins "replicated" the UN-OPCW mission's "most crucial finding" for a  the 10km rocket flight from Mt. Qasioun, proving government guilt. They never did find that; it was just implied by the reported trajectory and HRW, Chivers, et al. had to "find" it themselves by tracing that line as far as it took. Furthermore, the implications have been withdrawn, if not officially; the lead investigator anyway agreed by the end of 2013 the rocket's short range of ~2km ruled it out. Ahmad still doesn't get that point and sees it flying 10km on the UN-OPCW's reported trajectory of 105° east from Mt. Qasioun. He'll also have no clue that trajectory itself was obviously and grossly erred, nor that Higgins' due north "replication" points 75° differently to a different base. Even though they can't both be right, the article suggests they are and confirm each other by blaming the regime in the selfsame way. 

Maybe two spots were used? And maybe the 3rd one found by Al-Jazeera as well? One needs 10km, the other "6-8km" and Al-Jazeera's needs ~5km. Ok. So Everyone who said the Volcano rockets had a roughly 2km max. range is wrong, whatever degree of proof they had once achieved. This includes former UN weapons inspector Richard Lloyd, MIT professor Ted Postol, Eliot Higgins himself, UN-OPCW team leader Ake Sellstrom himself, etc.. They've all been wrong since late 2013/early 2014, and no need to explain how ... but Higgins mysteriously got it right again for his 2021 book, boasting his earlier and bogus blame of a base 6-8km away. No explanation was needed, and now he lets Ahmad verbally tweak that trajectory estimate halfway to opposite and point right back at Mt. Qasioun ... just like someone had just gotten Joby Warrick to do again in HIS 2021 book. 

Oh and we're wrong too for disagreeing with the corrected readings of the UN-OPCW and others. Lloyd and Postol, Higgins and Sellstrom, and at least the four of us standing by this new report. Only the very latest, highly-promoted, regime-blaming books are correct at the moment. And so Higgins gets to be both right AND wrong on this one. That should clear up everything. If anyone's still playing confused, they must be ...

"Two twitter trolls" = me and Michael (not Chris I presume). Then one is especially notorious - I guess Michael? Maybe me? We're best ignored, or maybe banned? Higgins has been asking about that, because he doessn't fare well in a fair debate.

Me to Higgins on this same point: So you reject our trajectory work, crossing here at 2-2.1km range. Of course. You defer to/replicate the UN-OPCW fire from near west, by including your due north reading in your recent book. N and/or W but not NW. Hope I'm following that right. You've been no help so far. 

... That is in fact the state of nonsense this has devolved to. You replicated the core point that forensics and truth don't matter. Pointing at the regime to change is the only point. Thanks for that lesson. 

Irony: Higgins's north trajectory estimate was early - 26 August 2013, just  5 days after the attack - and per the footnotes, this is just what he recycled in his 2021 book, and what Ahmad recycled in his own 2021 article. Therefore: recycled 8-year old disinformation, finally located! 

Note: NewLines "magazine" is one voice of the New Lines Institute for Policy and Strategy - a Washington D.C. "nonpartisan" (war party) think tank "working to enhance U.S. foreign policy." They identify shifting and shift-able "lines" (political, territorial, philosophical, factual and moral) behind which US power can grow new roots and outflank its global rivals. Just formed in 2019/2020, their biggest mark yet was the Uyghur genocide hoax report based on the faith-based propaganda of  Adrian Zenz (see GrayZone exposé) Less heralded are New Lines members who've openly called for stealing Syria's oil and grain via military occupation, to use oil and “wheat [as] a weapon" to pressure Syria's people into abandoning their government, now that the proxy war has failed. These ideas have become active US policy under both the Trump and Biden administrations (see - nonpartisan). And their media wing should be great at clearing up "Assadist propaganda." See Idrees go.

Higgins: the Army would've noticed

The highest-profile name to address the actual findings (AFAIK), and I'm surprised he's stepped in at all, is Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins @EliotHiggins. He's supposed to be a world leader in OSINT affairs, who's been praised (last entry) for "replicating" the UN-OPCW's bogus trajectory analysis. He should be able to spot what we did wrong in our analysis of  9 impacts to indicate this spot.

Coming to the defense of Brian S (see below), Replying June 25: That site also puts it within a couple of hundred of meters from the bus depots government forces had just captured a few days earlier. You'd think they'd notice the loud rocket launches happening that near by.

Me: And since we know they didn't hear that... wait, can we know that? 

That was his one point. He's seen no videos or public reports of such a noisy event, so presumably no one saw or heard it, and so it didn't happen there, whatever the forensic evidence says on the matter. He could easily show us wrong, but why bother once you've so thoroughly excluded the possibility?  

Was the area so occupied people would surely be there to witness the event? Charles Woodthe SAA will have listening posts in buildings adjacent to the bus park, monitoring the river crossings. So it's likely they would hear, see, or observe it one way or another if if truly happened there that night. And as far as we know they did, and just didn't bother telling a world that never listens to their side of a story anyway. Some further tweets putting that in context:

Michael Kobs: We know, SAA was attacked with sarin quite a few meters from that launch spot, sarin IEDs were found a little east of that spot, we have video of tanks approaching that spot after Aug 23. So, who heard something?

Me: Maybe the army? And maybe before reporting on noises no one would believe, they went in to find proof, got some in their soldiers' blood, found the workshop, etc. and still got ignored. We'd hear about that. Oh, we did. But still.

See map: they were moving towards that spot when they hit that sarin roadblock. Exact mission unclear - perhaps to relieve the stranded troops at Tohme checkpoint (who were instead killed that same day).

So yeah, that's a consideration. The army would have noticed it, and as far as we know they did, so we must be wrong somehow. Seeing that comment, I pressed Higgins pretty hard, as noted above. No reply. He hasn't blocked me, nor I think has he muted me. He's replied to me 0 times since 2014, but I might have startled him here; I think I heard a scuttling sound as soon as I stepped into the discussion. That mousey will be inside some wall asking around who can get a bell around this cat's neck. 

Marschke: It was Assad's sarin

Soon Kostja Marschke - a Bellingcat cat beller (I think?) -  stepped in to circumvent our work with a familiar shortcut: whatever our analysis said, the impurities in it prove that was Assad's sarin, so it must be his attack. I can add the same impurities turned up in the sarin used for the August 24 attack noted and mapped above. And we should agree it's turned up in at least with the Khan al-Assal and Saraqeb incidents in 2013, and at least in 2 of the 2017 incidents in Latamnah and Khan Sheikhoun. 

He started off citing the well-known supposed smoking gun. KM: "Syria declared 80 tons of hexamine. 80 tons of hexamine was all that was ever declared to the OPCW under the CWC. It was declared "category 1", so direct ingredient of a chemical weapon, not a precursor." Me: "No, Zanders, Kaszeta and Higgins are not reliable sources. Who found out what Nusra Front's Ahmad put in his sarin? No one." Given link to where I explain how they probably decided Syria's formula included hexamine simply because it was in the sarin turning up, and they wanted to say that was Assad's.

This was never really my area, but in the following brief discussion I showed valid standing doubts over every point was able to raise. Unable to prove that hexamine was meant for sarin production, as he originally thought, Marchke soon felt like that was a big distraction from the real issue he forgot to mention until just then: Here he complains my 2nd report only addresses the hexamine aspect while "The more important issue, which is hydrogen fluoride, is not addressed. This is an important bias. This "analysis" was clearly done starting from a conclusion." Maybe I do have such a bias, picked up from Zanders listing hexamine under "sarin" w/no basis and repeatedly calling it the "principal telltale sign" of regime guilt, Kaszeta calling it a smoking gun for a few random reasons, Higgins and the NYT et al. repeating that, Kostja Marschke himself leaping straight to the 80 tons of hexamine a few tweets back, w/no mention of any other chemical clues ... inconsistent info feeds from someone more informed?

But yeah there are the other alleged issues with the DF also said to match with Syria's stocks. These are considered some at this blog, admittedly not in detail. In the report, I tried to at least mention them in passing, to avoid charges of avoidance. But on review, it seems I only left that implied by noting plural impurities and having hexamine specified as "principal" among them, not solitary. I could've been clearer on that.

These other, less-mentioned impurities didn't seem very proven either, but that's another topic I don't plan on getting distracted with anytime soon. Also noting AFAIK what turns up IS the Syrian military formula, or similar in all the advertised ways, and is therefore possibly: used by the regime, stolen from them, copied to mimic their formula or (for logical fullness), similar by coincidence. There are details and points for and against each of those I'm only partly versed in, and I rather doubt it is their formula. But either way, as Rootclaim put it from their own weighing and crunching of claims and evidence:

"We addressed sarin composition in our analysis. It indeed increases the probability that the SAA is responsible, but that's of course negligible compared to an actual video showing the opposition carrying [out] the attack right at the intersection of all rocket trajectories."

Put another way, it fails as a shortcut. And it failed as a distraction.

The videos! Wishful thinking?

Kostja Marschke's hexamine then not-hexamine talk bored me so I had already turned the discussion back to our findings, which he was trying to distract from or circumvent.  


KM: "I guess we have left the field of evidence now. This is where I leave, too." I bid him farewell, since forensics is so fringe. He would then clarify it wasn't so much our analysis he rejected - explicitly, at the moment, if ever - but the bit I had just re-inserted - the video scene the forensics wound up pointing to: "There's no real point in engaging much beyond that. Using this video to try and defend Assad is just wishful thinking."

In fact I never liked these videos with the murky provenance, never wished for them to be central, and had never even watched them closely. It always seemed possible they were a smoking-gun clue, but probably not in the straightforward sense many took them in, and settling that seemed like a hopeless task or a bad investment of time. But when I finally saw this little field with the scorched corner, in such proximity to our central indicated spot, lining up with the video scene on one point after another, that possibility quickly gelled to probable then all-but-certain. The others involved in the report agree. A lot of readers, hopefully, will be agreeing once they see the explanation. They might need a good reason in order to circumvent that.

Marschke: videos fail to show the full moon

Trying to pull things back towards "evidence," he came back shortly to start a thread on "some facts" - still not challenging the trajectory analysis, just casting doubt on the videos that had become central. Mainly he acted as if he'd carefully show how the full moon should be visible and yet it isn't and therefore "The videos were demonstrably not shot the night of the attack." 

His facts, partly summarized 

1) clear sky 

2) "It was a full moon that night, with the moon being clearly visible when looking into southern directions (such as the south-east trajectory the rockets were fired into according to you)."

3) you'd see the moon if looking at it

4) other doubts compiled ("blurry" video ... "unspecified time and location" - no sign chemical weapons are being used - inadequate protection for sarin. Those are all wrong, inconclusive, or irrelevant)

5) "The video is evidently inconsistent with the circumstances around the attack, since it does not show any sign of the full moon that would have been visible in it."

KM: "As I've explained, we know at which direction the camera had to point if your "analysis" was correct. We also know in which direction the moon was visible. But we don't see a full moon, nor any light it shines on the scene. That's because the video does not show the attack."

Deus Abscondis: "You appear to be disorientated. There is no camera angle in the videos which ought to show the moon as a disk in the sky and you fail to understand what happens in video photography when there is a bright light illuminating the scene."

Kostja does mention the full moon's general illumination of the scene (bolded), but only in passing; Eliot Higgins had long ago lol'd over its absence, but it probably existed - the cameraman never stumbles in the 'pitch-black' and as people have caught on, that ambient light would be invisible on most 2013-era smart phone cameras, at least compared to the floodlight. 

A view looking right at the moon probably would show it, and that's the main issue he raises here. But as DA shows better than I could have, the moon was to the southwest (at the basic given time of 2am), not "south" or "such as southeast." 

Deus Abscondis: 42° elevation - none of the cameras were ever pointed in the right direction - 212.74°. As for ambient light he doesn't seem to have an understanding about CMOS sensors and dark scenes-especially when there is a bright light illuminating part of the area. cited:  https://mooncalc.org/#/33.5162,36.3171,13/2013.08.21/02:00/1/0


Views I know of with any distance are to the west and northeast, not to the southwest. The rockets do fly (what would be) southeast, but that's a much different direction and we don't see right down their trajectory anyway but at an angle, facing northeast, almost exactly away from the moon. Here's the smoke trail and eastern trees lit up by the rocket's nearby glow. I don't think there is a single view to the southwest. And DA and Michael are probably right to say the only views with the right kind of vertical angle to see the moon are these watching the rockets fly, but all from angle like this facing east to northeast.

So it remains entirely possible this is August 21, as the people in the video say and contrary to Marschke's assertions. This is because, as he had put it "we know at which direction the camera had to point" and "which direction the moon was visible. But we don't see a full moon" ... because those directions never line up. He acted like they do, but they don't.

Possible follow-up, left to the equipped and motivated: 
- double-check the video for consistent views to check if moon visibility is ever tested and found to fail 
- check enhanced video for any hint of ambient lighting that might appear far enough from the floodlight, and see if its basic angle be assessed. High up is a distance - is there any frame of a rocket trail where we can say the rocket's glow has faded and it's now just reflecting moonlight?

Grim, Hilsman: the findings were produced by bad people

Start with Patrick Hilsman, an emergent expert on Syria and chemical weapons for The Intercept, the Young Turks, etc. Formerly known to me hazily as 'the Chewbacca guy from Bellingcat' (basic network anyway), it's interesting to see that cartoon come to life. Anyway, speaking to Aaron Maté, and referring to myself a couple days back: 

"You realize this ghoul mocking dead kids is author of the “study” you shared yesterday from an Israeli tech firm that says the Wuhan Lab Conspiracy Theory has a 83% chance of being true right? They also, surprisingly enough, agree that a DNR BUK brought down MH17."

Identified problems with the "study": a "ghoul" was involved - I'll come right back to that. An "Israeli tech firm" is not to be trusted - at least if their findings disagree with his. He likes the MH-17 findings, but that's "strange." Otherwise, inspector Hilsman seems to have pegged a new outpost in his global map of Putin-Trump-Iran-Israel evil axis of Assadist disinformation. As it seems to me, Rootlaim is not a "firm" in the usual sense. Mainly it's a guy and another person or a small few collating claims and evidence, trying to calculate the most likely reality of the situation, and publishing that to be freely seen (and double-checked). I don't see the significant of their being Israeli or doing this in Israel.

That was in a discussion on chlorine lethality in Douma, 2018 and the OPCW coverup. I was not mocking the victims but some stupid, flippant, I'd say disrespectful assumptions about the victims that I had poured over my head one time too many - fear of shelling made them remain inside with the deadly concentrations of gas for the hours it would take most to die. As the OPCW's first-consulted then-deleted expert toxicologists told them, they victims wouldn't be paralyzed or unconscious. It would burn like hell in their eyes and chests and they'd be filled with a terrified instinct to find cleaner air ASAP. But here, people assume they chose to stay inside, laying in piles like that because that's what the stupid activist story requires and because most people just don't realize how stupid it is. The OPCW had a chance to educate people, but they covered up and lied instead, and now some good people are total idiots on this point. And so is Patrick Hilsman. 

So I mock that idea and whoever mindlessly accepts it, here by playing out one scene to shows its absurdity, I guess in poor taste. Not my proudest tweet, but I'm not ashamed either. It inspired The Intercept senior editor Ryan Grim to barge into the discussion with the highest-profile criticism I'm aware of. His first words in all this: "Y'all are sick." 

That was his first step into a huge mess of criticism of his/The Intercept's ignoring the OPCW scandal these last two years, leading to his agreeing to finally try and get the story covered - my short thread on helping spark that. He may not realize the study I'm key to refers to Ghouta 2013, not Douma 2018, but my comments referred to the latter, and he said

"Mocking these dead children is just horrifying. That the person doing the mockery is also a key source here is not inspiring much confidence in the integrity of this investigation." 

He doesn't flat-out dismiss it prior to having a look, but he does already have some words on "the integrity" of our Ghouta sarin attack investigation.

Note: Y'all (you all) can be singular referring to me, or to "all" of us doubting the official story. Maybe it was personalized, in reference to this earlier tweet on the same subject of the Ghouta reports: June 18, to a bunch of regime change supporters not including Grim: a lot of names, Rootclaim tweet on report's release, a pointed preview from my own report, and a simple note: "y'all fail." That's not normal for me either - it just seemed appropriate there. Maybe he saw that in a quick scan of recent tweets after seeing my name for the first time just then and saw fit to flip it back to attack me. If so ... he felt compelled to come to the defense of: @EliotHiggins @bellingcat @mazenadarwish3 @sakostas @syrian_archive @crdefenders @OSFJustice @JobyWarrick @cjchivers @JPZanders @DanKaszeta @PatrickHilsman @KostjaMarschke @mmalken  @im_PULSE etc.  

Aaron Mate reply: Y'all -- The Intercept -- are cowards who ran cover for the Trump admin's pro-war narrative on Douma and now can't even acknowledge the leaks & whistleblowers exposing the lie. BTW, in ignoring the evidence that the victims weren't killed by chlorine gas, you're sick too.

Sick TOO? Well I guess that was bad taste, but I'm at least putting my illness to work for the better and not for the worse. And back to the actual point, as I explained to Grim in passing: "FWIW the main thing we did was collective visual analysis to estimate trajectories, triangulate, match w/videos, etc. My sickness doesn't matter there. MY OWN "version" though adds to the story, and yeah, it's a sick one." (link to overview post with report #2) 

S: Regime-held firing spot after all?

Brian S @tettodoro, Jun 19 to Rootclaim: So what are the coordinates of your alleged launch site? 

(note at the start: some suggestion he knows how to use these coordinates to check on our findings, that the following discussion will refer to them)

Rootclaim: 33.5325, 36.3412

Brian S: Very Interesting-that doesn't seem to be in rebel held territory at the relevant time

Thus began an absurd, slow-motion wild goose chase partially related below for optional amusement. In the end he claims to have meant the nearby but government-occupied tank park was the firing spot and we just got close, and then he switched to claiming anything less than 500m from the government-controlled stretch of highway was also government controlled. Also, when he asks "where & how  *do * you place it on the Bellingcat map?" it seems to me he really didn't know/hadn't tried, was guessing that whole time, and repeatedly ignored the mapping we showed him as an example. At the end he finally complained we had the spot "conveniently placed on a pic of such lowresolution that its impossibleto determine where itactually is." But he had already spent a few days acting like he had placed it and knew it was in a government-held area. 

Ok, knowing where that wound up here's much of the rambling course w/some notes.

Rootclaim: All sources are in agreement this is opposition territory. Where did you see otherwise?

Brian S: Citations please

Rootclaim: See the detailed map in the report. Also, this: https://bellingcat.com/news/mena/2014/07/15/identifying-government-positions-during-the-august-21st-sarin-attacks/  What are your sources for claiming government control?

(pause) This is the Bellingcat map he was just linked to, to support the one in the report by Charles Wood, both assembled in 2014 based on much detailed information. (other maps by LCC etc. and video evidence). As Bellingcat explained, this defines just which areas "would have allowed [the Syrian military] to launch" that attack that happened. - shaded green. Everything else is rebel-held and/or contested, so not government-held, implicitly or otherwise. Higgins and co. marked red arcs 2km out from the 2 placed impacts - As we said 2km out we found that doubly indicated spot. It's on the red arcs. I marked it here with a blue square, safely inside the not-green area. 



All kinds of sources converge in agreeing on this point, detailed information Brian S. has no clue of, let alone any valid reason to reject or even question it,.and no one has ever seriously contested it. Any real dispute will be about who was in charge right there - some unknown video proof of unknown SAA checkpoints securing an area including this field at 33.5325, 36.3412. There is no such thing. 

Brian S. would say he never even meant to contest that, but then .... resume: 

Brian S: This link supports my caseYou said"all sources " so presumably you have more- send them on &we'll see if we can find anythingthat actually supports you

Rootclaim: Please explain how this link supports the claim that [33.5325, 36.3412] is under government control.

Brian S: I didn't say goverment http://control.You really should read before respnding

Rootclaim: Correct. Apologies. So what do you think was its status, and what sources are you using?

Brian S: "the Syrian government would have been in control of territory that would have allowed them to launch the August 21st attacks using the Volcano rockets recorded at the impact sites, " That's from theonly source you seem able to provide on theprobable launch site. Case closed.

Rootclaim: Please explain how this link supports the claim that [33.5325, 36.3412] is under government control.

Brian S: Just read it. Where are the multiple sources you claim to have but keep failing to produce?

Rootclaim: We of course read it multiple times, as did the writers of the report who quoted it. It puts the launch spot within opposition control. Please confirm you understand that before moving to other sources.

Brian S: Which writers of which report? The one you sent me saays exactly the opposite and the maps they link to corroborate it. I take it you don't have any additional sources, since you persistently fail to produce them

Rootclaim:  Please locate [33.5325, 36.3412] on the bellingcat map. Who controls this spot?

Brian S: Not the rebels, so by inference the regime

Around here I stepped in and challenged him by the wrong name of some time-water he reminded me of: "If Scott insists on dragging this out, no more words. Show on a map image where those coordinates come out. We (the grown-ups on both sides) can handle the comparison from there." He did not take that deal, of course. I let slip some more anyway: 

Brian S: sowhy are you persistently unable toproduce these "other souces"?

Me: you saw Charles Wood map in our report and ignore it, get the coords and claim it's not rebel-held. You see the Bellingcat map and it says the same. Here's one other, says the same huh? Bug off, nonsense machine. http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/2013/11/new-key-evidence-in-understanding.html

Brian S: There' no "Charles Wood Map"in the Rootclaim report

Me: Not even on page 32, huh? Of course. That's something else, and I'd know that if I were a good person like you. Didn't I say bug off? (no reply) ... 

Rootclaim was more patient.  Let's do it step by step: 

1. Take the bellingcat map 

2. Locate [33.5325, 36.3412] on it

3. Is it in or out of the green area?

4. Who controls the green area?"

Brian S: The green area on the relevant Bellingcat mapmarks the Government controlled area , Yourpoint is?

Rootclaim: Excellent work on step 4. Let us know once you've done steps 1-3.

Brian S: I Did them 8 years ago - your alleged site is inanarea identfied by Bellingcat as under goverment control- and is comfortably within the margin of error for the SAA Tank Park which was the actual launch site You, despite earlier claims clearly have no other souces, soEnd of Story

Rootclaim: Are you saying our alleged site (33.5325, 36.3412) is in the green area?

Brian S: Most likely

"Most likely." This guy has odds on where specific geographic coordinates point? No ...He just refuses to admit the coordinates are just where they are - as Brian S. does, to waste your time. What he meant was ... not sure, but apparently (as noted above) he hadn't checked, didn't know how, imagined we were just wrong and those coordinates wound up inside the green. 

"the SAA Tank Park which was the actual launch site" as he decided "8 years ago" - likely based on Higgins briefly deciding that in late 2013. It was a reasonable guess at the time, but now we have all that forensic detail unavailable at the time, unwanted now.

Asked to place the spot on a given map he said "Doing that places your site 500m.from a highway that is under the contolof the governmentwith a wide margin of control on either side (as you would expect)& your sitewell within that margin." Ok, maybe it's not in the green, but withing its magical forcefield extending > the non-estimated 500m he carefully measured. Regardless of lines of sight and fire or any other details, the Army could access it fine, launch rockets and all that, and somehow the rebels couldn't stop them from any of the surrounding buildings they 100% controlled. That actually is not expected at all.

Rootclaim: For the last time: Is [33.5325, 36.3412] inside or outside the green area?

Brian S: I've anwered this question every dayfor the past three days.I've said likely because you're dealing with a static image of a map with no scale.If you don't accept that your site is 500m from the highway where & how  *do * you place it onthe Bellingcat map?

Rootclaim shows again the same map above, showing indeed it's less than 500m from a controlled patch of highway, and Brian soon figured out how to locate it on a Google maps or whatever and even measured it, finally, at 328 meters from the nearest controlled spot, bolstering his case further.  Case closed.

Random opinions

ScharoMaroof @ScharoMaroof Jun 20

SM: conclusion: Can’t be us (SAA) cause bellingcat said it most likely came from the north - but we showed that it most likely came from the east/west ... who even cares what bellingcat said?

Rootclaim: That was a side note. Please read the entire thread.

SM: I did

Rootclaim: Great. Then you know that @Bellingcat's position is not important. There is direct evidence implicating the opposition.

SM: They are irrelevant and so is your analysis. Writing random lines as ‚possible trajectories‘ isn’t an analysis. I could do this sort of analysis from every neighbourhood in that city.. Your analysis has its audience already - have fun with your Assadist audience 

Nurse Quijote @intlibecoso: "The rootclaim 'study' on Ghouta is just nonsense." On another point "I concur with @PatrickHilsman's assessment." That apparently refers to "one of RootClaim’s “researchers” mocks the Children who were gassed to death in Douma."