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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Douma Revisited part 1: The Ballistic Evidence

Douma Chemical Massacre 2018 Revisited, Part 1 of 3

February 1, 2023

Adam Larson (aka Caustic Logic) (as usual here)

rough incomplete

last edits 2/18 (cleanup, minor points)

On January 27, the OPCW's Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) finally released its third report, regarding the 2018 alleged chlorine attack in Douma, Syria. In some detail they explain why they found "Reasonable grounds to identify" Syrian Arab Air Force as guilty of dropping two chlorine gas cylinders on Douma, reportedly causing 43 civilian deaths, sparking U.S. military strikes on facilities thought to produce sarin (which was also reported). 

The new IIT report echoes an earlier and much-contested report of the OPCW's Fact-Finding Mission (FFM). Added here is some detail, some extra distortion, ladled-on confidence, and of course the specific blame the IIT was created for, better enabling "accountability" - probably in the form of further sanctions to punish the long-suffering Syrian people (continuing John Kerry's "plan B" for Syria?). 

The new report has been widely heralded in Western media as proving, once and for all, the fact of Bashar al-Assad's guilt for this crime. It's posed as clearing up all doubt and shutting down all questions, which have been raised by: 

- whistleblowers from within this investigation, 

- some of the experts they consulted, 

- the OPCW's first director-General Jose Bustani, who wasn't directly involved but who knows all about Western powers steering and weaponizing his organization 

- other parties. 

Various leaked sub-reports, draft reports, and communications from the FFM investigation reflect some of the alternate views being included, then excised from the public reports. Now, Western mainstream media only mentions some of the "other parties" as having any issues, and poses all their concerns as "Russian disinformation" and the like (Aaron Mate media review). Other preferred assistants use the report to slap the various "conspiracy theorist" "tankie" "Assad apologist" or "Putin troll" types they have to shame for "denying" this "proven" war crime. 

I haven't fully read the report and probably won't. But I've skimmed it, followed some others' analysis and carefully reviewed some parts and will read more as needed. 

One practice of the FFM which the IIT investigators continue with: much of their positive evidence for aerial delivery of chlorine, and its relevance to the observed deaths, is questionable or even evidently bogus. Many critics have found many faults with the work of both FFM and IIT, not all of which are well-founded. In this series, I'll try to explain just some of these points in my own way.  

On the flip-side of that, alternate theories are treated in a somewhat straw man fashion; some scenarios may be floated as hypotheticals by one party, but are taken (if not by the IIT then by its readers and interpreters) as the firm argument of all skeptics. They like to do this with a few flawed arguments they received, perhaps ignoring others. They easily disprove this notion - or claim to anyway - and then the reader gets the sense that all possible alternatives have been put to rest and only the preferred conclusion remains "reasonable" enough to mention as a likely reality. This is naturally read as the proven truth, and it seems the IIT's job is done.

They don't disprove any of the points I've settled on after years of review and thought. Of course, it's not their job to know my theories or to predict what anyone else might come up with - unless of course they want to pursue the truth. Then they might consider other possibilities, even ones no one forced on them, and refrain from elevating the very questionable aerial attack theory at the expense of other plausible explanations.

But, in my estimation, they disprove some claims and theories, some of which matter as they remain current in many minds. Here I'll offer my own take on what they got right or might have, and what they still have terribly wrong, while sort of dodging a few points where I'm not sure enough either way. It runs long, but I hope it can help other smart people who care to focus and better reach the truth of the matter, and perhaps enable some true justice.

I've been arguing against the 'official story' of the Douma massacre from the start, nearly five years ago. Some of my own points remain imperfect, I'm sure, as I revise them to this moment. Some were quite imperfect previously, but long-ago or just-now now improved. But in general, I've been on the right track, and this just gets it more fully and securely on track. Here I'll set out a few of these improvements - mainly on the building damage at "Location 2" where 35 bodies were discovered. A part 2 will soon cover the chemical and toxicological evidence and other evidence relating to just how those people (and some mysterious 8 others) were killed

To get this done in a timely manner, it had to be a two-parter and to start (rough, incomplete) as usual -  tracking down details and images I've lost, getting less rusty, with distractions and some burnout to start - pursuing different takes, first with an almost raging tone, mixed with realizing some of my own mess-ups in the past, and catching brand-new mis-readings of haste ... then throwing my hands up in surrender at the scale of lies and the mental mess around it, on both sides and especially in my own head ...

and then - and here's the MO: I surrendered to a "chill" review heavy on clarifying some points of confusion. entertaining other views and concession of points that either seem correct or not worth challenging at the moment. And at the moment, I'm not looking to pick fights I'm even slightly unsure about. It's a bit of a soft take in spots but hopefully perfect in other spots, and by the end of part 2, it might hit pretty hard because - get this - it might encapsulate the real story of how these people died. It might just be on track to reality, an electrified track.

For time, the post is started as quick-form, based on research I've done and know, and may not fully cite here - for some sadly cumbersome reference, see a post linking most of my Douma research -  about events I don't fully re-explain, best for those already versed with the case and the allegations - some coming back to refine/improve - whole paragraphs to re-organize, redundancies to collapse, this sentence to delete, etc. ...end THEN same with part 2.

Location 2 building damage and "Trash Analysis"

Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins is one widely-read interpreter of the IIT report, one of the bigger fans and enablers of the OPCW's ongoing corruption and whitewashing of Islamist atrocities in Syria, but who hides from me behind a block on Twitter. I never harrassed him much, but maybe too well. He is kind of my "OSINT" nemesis". I had to gather from his Jan 27 thread in roundabout ways to use as a partial guide reviewing the IIT report. He says things like: "Those individuals involved with trying to deny and whitewash this war crime by the Syrian government should hang their heads in shame, but instead they'll double down on conspiracy theories and disinformation." Oh, the confidence he exudes! 

"Double-down" is the phrase everyone uses here. One side refuses to back down because of the evidence they know and the stakes, and the other because they're variously beholden to a multi-state-sponsored disinformation campaign. Aaron Maté, Jan 27: "Having now read the OPCW's new Douma report -- which doubles down on the OPCW cover-up by accusing Syria of a chemical attack -- let me acknowledge how much work must have gone into creating something so dishonest. I see why it took a few years, & recognize the effort. More soon." Independently, I said "New #OPCW #Douma report doubles down on the lies...." I cited a misreading, albeit a reasonable one, so my purpose here is to double-down a bit better.

Higgins doubled down on smearing the original OPCW Douma whistleblower, promising to triple down soon.

"One of the Douma "leakers", Ian Henderson, made a big thing of his analysis, but turns out it was trash analysis all along." ... "As we detailed at the time, Henderson's analysis was trash, but that didn't stop a bunch of tankies and overeager "journalists" to take it at face value and use it to deny war crimes. ... Ian Henderson was full of shit all along, who knew? We'll take a deeper look at that in a future article."

Veteran OPCW inspector Ian Henderson's suppressed-then-leaked engineering report always made sense overall, aside from a couple of small issues and some points that remain debatable. That very fact - combined with the reality of events clashing with the agenda of top OPCW state sponsors - is probably just why it was suppressed and never spoken of until after it was leaked. 

Engineering report: http://syriapropagandamedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Engineering-assessment-of-two-cylinders-observed-at-the-Douma-incident-27-February-2019-1.pdf

A good article about it - Robert Fisk for Counterpunch: https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/05/27/the-evidence-we-were-never-meant-to-see-about-the-douma-gas-attack/

It was never perfect - a previous consideration of alleged and real flaws in the engineering report: https://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com/2020/01/and-lets-continue-that-discussion-about.html

Higgins/Bellingcat's prior smears of Henderson: libelous trash, mean-spirited damage control for the war party's hijacking of the OPCW and whitewashing of Islamist atrocities.  

The IIT report explains they "thoroughly considered" - among other sources - a scare-quoted "“Engineering Assessment” drafted by a then-OPCW staff member and shared by the latter with the IIT." That was by way of mollification as they scrambled to explain and discredit the suppressed report, long AFTER some form of it was considered by the FFM investigation (e.g. their earlier report in 2019 refers to some of its arguments, countering them even when they points themselves don't appear). They should have had SOME engineering study done early on, and if not Henderson's then whose?  It was apparently rejected by FFM leadership with no overt mention in public sources, and replaced with a strangely late consultation with external engineering experts, whose findings are questionable and not fully explained, but better fit with the aerial attack hypothesis. 

Of course, the IIT had to focus on faults in Henderson's report and overrule it, given all the contradictory assessments they and the FFM before them had sought out.

Here's why the FFM leadership never like Henderson's report. "The expert view" it related was that the building damage pointed more to "blast/energetics (for example from a HE mortar or rocker artillery round)" than it did to an "impact from the falling object." That is, the blast wave, not the shell nor some non-explosive metal container, would have caused the hole and related damage.  A dated graphic to convey most of the points Henderson raised in the report: 

Updates to the image: the fragmentation pattern here is probably not what he meant - see below. "Cinderblock fill" - my own idea - maybe it's just all concrete left partly hollow. Otherwise, these are some of the things he refers to in the following points, with notes as I think they help.

* "deformed rebar splayed out at the underside of the crater, which was not explained by the apparent non-penetration and minimal damage of the cylinder" (well-put, emphasis mine). The expert agreed rebar bent past 90 degrees like this is "typical for explosions." 

* "an (unusually elevated, but possible) fragmentation pattern on upper walls" (probably NOT referring to those marked in the image above - see explanation below)

* extremely limited cylinder damage after a long alleged fall and 2 alleged impacts, the latter nose-down (they usually flatten significantly on the impacted end, albeit usually on imapact with hard earth), and no sign of the cylinder contacting the rebar (concrete reinforcing bar) that ostensibly stopped the cylinder (it usually leaves indentations in such a case). The "observed vessel deformation and concrete damage were not compatible."

* "cratering" around the hole on the top side of the slab (sides sloping down to the middle) and below (the same but upside down). High-energy impacts like a meteor or artillery shell can create angled shockwaves ejecting material in the form of a crater, but the consulted expert explained the degree observed at Location 2, "particularly on the underside," was "more consistent with that expected as a result of blast/energetics" than with the impact of a non-explosive steel gas cylinder that, again, didn't even have the energy to break or be indented by the rebar it actually (allegedly) contacted.

This shows a high-energy mechanical impact: some cratering around a hole or tunnel roughly the diameter of the penetrating object. I've misread this in the past. Hope I have it now.

Here's the Douma crater above and below. This is much like the non-tunneling sort of impact (above, left), except somehow the hole is about twice the diameter of the impacting object. I don't think this was quite explained in the engineering report, but I think it's the takeaway message: a mechanical impact might cause cratering, but probably less than what's seen here, and only around a hole roughly the object's size. not the kind of wide cratering we see around this much-bigger hole. 

* The terrace crater had a very similar appearance to other roof impacts in the area that were clearly caused by such weaponry. The FFM would also note this, considering the similarity a coincidence of how (they think) mechanical and explosive impacts look exactly the same. (alt. view added to show intact rebar)

That helps show this was a battle zone where shells of a similar suggested power had fallen just meters away. That sets a nice, clear local precedent and a match for nature of damage. There are many examples from all over the world, but my own files are bit short. Here are 2 found collected at When is an artillery crater not an artillery crater? - hiddensyria. The weapon responsible was much smaller in diameter than these craters. It's the wider blast wave of its payload detonation that does this. 

These examples probably involve the shell remnant also punching in, likely adding to the rebar damage. It might be the same in Douma, but officially, there was neither a blast wave NOR any penetrating object to explain the flayed-out rebars; they just got shook loose like that by a heavy thunk on the concrete nearby. Eliot Higgins and all kinds of smart folks think so, or pretend to.

To look into more: photos of NON-explosive concrete roof impacts like this one in Douma is alleged to be. I'm short on examples at hand, but I bet they match up poorly. (Add: Duh - location 4 in Douma seems to be an example - see below)(Add: but the penetrating object in unknown, not necessarily the cylinder.) Other examples would help, plus better images than I have for that one, and it should be done somewhere else, later, or by someone else. Moving on with the engineering report... 

*  "indication of concrete spalling under the crater." Spalling just means breaking. This might refer to the underside cratering or to the lines of disrupted, "scratched" looking concrete corresponding to reinforcing bars that transmitted shockwaves from the blast.

* the metal harness and fins needed for flight showed a totally different level of damage from the cylinder, which bore no sign "that it had been fitted with these, nor did it show signs of them having been stripped from the cylinder as a result of impact." 

* the report also noted scorching on the walls below, and that all of it we see seems to originate form a fire someone set later, as if it might matter anyway (like they set the fire to cover up lesser scorching already there? Could be.)

The FFM, IIT, their preferred experts and external helpers (Higgins et al.) take issue with drop height assumptions in Henderson's engineering report. I still don't personally know how to calculate or challenge the point. So for us for the moment, let's consider the helicopter was just 50 feet up or whatever yields a cylinder velocity that makes this damage work - if there IS any one velocity that can make sense - and it avoided shootdown long enough to drop its payload.

We need a velocity that allows for a huge, indirect transfer of kinetic energy to leave two upper rebars, which the cylinder would directly contact, bent but intact, while flinging lower bars it never touched out well past 90 degrees, without leaving sign of any rebar contact on the cylinder - pulverizing the concrete completely in an area about twice its diameter, wider yet along the sloped edges, and spraying the material almost horizontally into the walls and all across the room below - all with some radial "blast wave" of ... self-magnifying and re-directing kinetic energy? - and the cylinder totally stops after transferring all its energy, with almost no elastic deformation, as seen with most other alleged chlorine drops - and then it topples over next to the crater.

A blast wave can do that - send some things flying while passing around others, without appeal to special physics. A mechanical impact like they propose probably cannot.

Apparently some consulted experts, the FFM, IIT, and much of its audience disagree. They either think this is plausible enough, or they pretend to think that. It's claimed tens of thousands of simulations went into modeling the two helicopter drops and impacts to find it all added up, but that might just show how difficult it was to explain. But even with the new graphic in the IIT report, we're still quite short on visualizations of how this can all make sense. And without such help - which I suspect is impossible - I still cannot see it. 

Fragmentation Pattern(s): Missing from Where? 

Higgins thread: "Another favourite theory from the war crime denialists is the crater on the balcony impact site (location 2) was caused by an explosion, and fragmentation patterns around the balcony proved that, but it turns out they were wrong about that too."

Ian Henderson's engineering report seems to do this, giving "an (unusually elevated, but possible) fragmentation pattern on upper walls" as one of the points supporting 'the likelihood of the crater having been created by a mortar/artillery round or similar." Just now do I clearly realize it - this is an incorrect inference. He might refer to the 3rd floor interior walls below the crater (see below), as I once concluded. But "unusually elevated" seems to mean the pattern of fragmentation (or shrapnel) marks quite a ways above it, seen most clearly here at the top of the balcony's south wall. The left view from the OPCW report had the red circle showing the corner impact that seems to connect with these marks, like being the center and their point of origin. 

This concentration of marks loosens at it runs away from the center in a general band continuing across all 4 walls ... sloping down the west wall (with lighter marks to about 3/4 of the way down the wall at the corner, lower yet on the right)... 

...and down the east wall ...

.. running lowest, but still above floor level, on the lower north wall, spanning floor to railing, with some extra damage, then an odd unmarked patch at the NE corner.

In all directions, this seems too unusually elevated to possibly link to the crater, hitting densely in a narrow band mainly on the upper walls. The highest marks will be in the forward direction, but they would also be much more widely scattered, and would probably cover the entire wall. And an angle high enough to miss the lower wall would have the fragments in the rear digging more into the floor than into any wall (see diagrams below if that helps).

My own take was always different, made more sense. I've re-explained it a few times, imperfectly each time, both times including some explanation of the concepts at work so the reader can see what I mean - take as needed the best summary of what's here + here and adding here that there were likely TWO unrelated impacts of explosive mortar/artillery shells at this balcony - one at the upper corner, and one into the balcony floor or roof of the room below - before this chlorine cylinder ever showed up. Therefore, most logically, it arrived by foot and manual placement. 

Even before I decided on 2 shells, there were always 2 distinct damage areas to consider. Yet in all my blog posts, tweets, and debates, I have often failed at being clear what damage was referred to and matters. Here at least I carefully review and sort it out for a more helpful view.

Here's what I had for some a previous debate: the clear fragmentation pattern points to the upper southeast corner of the balcony, where I always figured THE relevant blast happened. The IIT apparently hasn't even considered that, even though it's visually evident, as they considered the cylinder hit there. They assume it caused the corner smash, but not the bullet-like fragmentation radiating from that same spot. They must have taken that as some irrelevant coincidence. And it could be. 

OK. Labeled steps 1 and 2 here are fine. But then I linked this same shell to the floor crater, by having the spent remnants, perhaps, impacting there (final trajectory along the green lines). The crater always looked pretty explosive to me, so how did they connect? Did the blast wave extend ahead of the shell, that far ahead and that narrowly? Was this some 2-stage shell that blows up a second time? Neither makes much sense, but put together with "or other" it seemed likely enough for the moment. Then the moment lasted years... 

I also noticed later how the fragmentation pattern is of a disc angled down from the SE corner, suggesting a perpendicular trajectory mostly to the SE, from behind the camera into that corner - not towards the floor crater.

The damage resulting from two different shell impacts had occurred to me, but that seemed too complex. Why? Finally it hit me: that's better than not making much sense. At some point, perhaps a shooter was using this balcony, until a mortar shell tried to take him out. Another followed moments later, or on a whole other day maybe months or years later, maybe missing some other target. The order and other detials don't matter to the core point. I bet Henderson or any qualified and honest expert would agree, on seeing all the points laid out, that this is most likely.

Now to what the OPCW's investigations found. In their 2019 report, the OPCW's FFM decided an explosive device at the crater was "unlikely given the absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of an explosion that may have created the crater and the damage surrounding it." I raged against this before. But considering the bolded part ... grudgingly agreed. 

New IIT report: 6.218 "The terminal ballistics expert further determined that the damage observed at Location 1 was not consistent with the use of an explosive charge." Typo: Location 1 = underground clinic. If the expert really said that about location 2 ... is the expert a moron regarding explosive weapons, or engaging in wordplay? Technically, the damage observed at Location 2 is most consistent with the use of TWO explosive charges, not AN explosive charge.

Figure 18 is labeled: "photos of the upper part of the rooftop walls. The fragmentation pattern is not consistent with an explosive event." Like at all. But in fact, that's the only cause of such a pattern. The text agrees. 6.145: "On the upper parts of the walls, the fragmentation pattern is inconsistent with an explosive event having occurred at the location of the crater." 

So as Patrick Hilsman correctly decoded it, the FFM's "absence" of such marks could be better put as an "excessive distance" from or a "presumed irrelevance" to the crater in the balcony floor. And the point is correct. It's not an absurd link for the layman to make, but from what I know, it makes no ballistic sense. 

Now, where the IIT still sees "clearly visible damage, which may have been caused by the cylinder impacting the wall before landing on the rooftop floor" - is "the fragmentation pattern" they see there also "inconsistent with an explosive event" happening THERE, where I think it would have? They don't say. Coverup helper Patrick Hilsman, who slightly gets this stuff, countered the damage pattern on the upper walls "could easily come from any number of explosives being set off in the immediate vicinity." (see here) The pattern covers parts of ALL 4 inner walls of the balcony (see above). Therefore, the blast had to be within the space OF the balcony, and probably at the worst-damaged corner where the frag mark bands tighten to merge. 

It's possible a falling gas cylinder also impacted the same spot, maybe even adding to the visible damage. In fact, it's the only place it could hit and leave no sign of its own. And if one's calculations favor an initial impact to slow the velocity, then one might propose this strange coincidence. But it seems like an unfounded act of imagination to me, and one proposed only to help explain the impossible impact velocity. It fails anyway, I'd say, because the weak & yet explosive velocity they need is impossible. But it doesn't fail for lack of unwarranted trying. 

Crater-linked Damage?

As noted, the crater's size and wide, sloping sides plus the extreme rebar bend, lesser spalling along other bars in the grid, the lighter fragmentation marks below the crater, and widespread concrete rubble all support an explosive weapon impact at the roof/balcony floor.

But the FFM was only interested in the frag marks or lack of them, on the walls above. "the absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of an explosion that may have created the crater and the damage surrounding it." The upper marks don't count for this, and as they say, "On the lower parts of the rooftop walls, there is no visible impact from fragments that would indicate the use of an explosive device to breach the roof." (aka balcony floor).

I've conceded that point so far, but this is a good time to review it.

First, where are marks expected? This depends on the angle of impact. An impact from the north with a trajectory to the south would leave few or no marks on the north wall, while a hit from the south would probably mark it to some height. Likewise, an impact from the west would mark the east wall highest, and vice-versa, and combinations (a SE trajectory would leave highest marks to the SE). A roughly vertical impact, which is rare, would mark all 4 walls at an even height. 

Bonus: I'll venture the trajectory may have been a bit north-to-south (or similar to the other one), going by the details of the cratering. On the south side, the upper layer of concrete remains in large pieces just cracked apart (gold area here - seen better in other views). It's to the sides and the rear that the blast and packed metal fragments would be sent mainly into the floor, shredding it to a higher degree and probably over a wider span. What I've been calling the "splash pattern." That rough area full of concrete crumbs and dust is marked orange here. The direction back to the mortar responsible is probably across the middle span of this orange area. FWIW, that means frag marks would usually be spread some ways up the south wall ahead, highest on the left half.

Where did the FFM look? Figure 18 focuses on upper south wall, the SW corner and west wall, seen to the bottom but partly obscured and in shadow. For what it's worth. Otherwise, it seems they mean all walls are too free of marks to suggest an impact from any angle. 

Even in better views, there just a very few light marks down here near the crater, scattered on perhaps all 4 walls - perhaps enough to suggest something additional to the corner impact, but faintly if so, and with no visible concentration into a readable pattern. On review, it still seems all upper marks and most middle ones clearly belong to the corner impact, but it's not certain that they all do. 

Now below the impact is another story. There are very many frag marks here, especially considering there should be zero from non-explosive cylinder impact. Only a few look like primary marks (red, with some chipping the wall around a bullet-like central impact), and perhaps with muted force, and a whole lot of secondary frag marks (broke and hurled concrete) or maybe extra-weakened primary ones (pink). They're all over the south wall ahead, spanning top to about halfway down - similar on the west wall as we can see it - maybe lighter on the east wall, and north wall unseen AFAIK. I can make out even more possible marks here, I just got bored. (some pop out of the shadows if you tilt your screen) 

BUT there are few if any visible fragments marks above that, which does raise questions. I suppose they aren't fully answered yet, but I consider that's just the nature of this explosive impact. I haven't studied many roof/floor-breaching blasts to know if this is irregular for those. Anyone else? The IIT never explained why there SHOULD be frag marks above, just assumed there would be. 

Possibility: a roughly vertical impact with a delayed detonation at and below the floor slab, with just some lighter outlying fragments hitting the lower walls above, mainly directing the blast and fragments below, but with the slab intercepting most primary fragments. The possible N-S trend noted still seems valid, but it always looked pretty vague and circular, also suggesting a relatively vertical impact - from the north at quite short range (whatever that is for whatever exact weapon was used - not sure).

Add 2/2: As Michael Kobs points out, the weapons used might be non-standard and thus behave unusually. Local militias produced some of their own, including mortar shells, and these might have been used on this building during infighting between opposition groups, which is known to happen over the years (see part 2). They would probably be designed to work similar to traditional shells, but might not fragment as well, possibly helping to explain the relative lack of marks we see in the one case. 

Other points for aerial delivery

IIT, 6.146: "Photographs taken at the scene do not show any fragments that could be attributed to a conventional high-explosive munition... "

Again, both metal primary fragments and secondary fragments - energized material, here mostly concrete - would result from a blast like the one evident here. The concrete coats the floor of the room below pretty much corner to corner, in mostly small pieces, after leaving marks on the walls they smacked into before spreading even wider. Those are totally seen, and testify to a radial-lateral force that seems impossible from a falling cylinder that didn't even have the velocity break or get dented by the rebars it directly contacted.

Primary fragments vary from fingernail size to a lot smaller. What did they do, run away at high speed? Did the sneaky little buggers burrow into the walls to hide? They did so massively above, but less so on the 3rd floor interior walls. I see about at least about seven there. Still, could the remaining (thousands?) all wind up invisible? Maybe some ricocheted far away out view, over the balcony or out the window. Maybe others landed nearby in a corner but were covered with debris. A tiny, deformed metal fragment or 2, or 10, 50 or 100 could actually HAVE been seen, and they just didn't realize it.  Some were possibly even picked up during crime scene preparation. All those are possible or likely. Yet the professional regime-blamers pretend not SEEING these fragments in photos means something. What a stupid little move. They really are short on moves here. 

"... Furthermore, no remnants of any fusing system have been found or observed on or nearby the cylinder on the rooftop. ..."

In general, shell remnants will be blown into tiny pieces the above points apply to, or into bigger pieces you'd see, in which case it might be seen and picked up already.

"... Additionally, the cylinder does not show any damage which would be consistent with the use of explosives to breach its integrity for the purpose of releasing its content deliberately. These are all indicators that no explosive device was used."

MY point was that both "cylinder impact" points are actually mortar shell impacts - the site is coated with clues of the explosive event. But then the cylinder had nothing to do with that, so ... as we've always said - it has nothing to do with the scene damage, with any mechanical or explosive impact there. Henderson: the "observed vessel deformation and concrete damage were not compatible."

Higgins: "The IIT also examines the likelihood the cylinders were manually placed, for which there was no evidence and "incompatible with the totality of information it gathered""

To the extent an air drop is illogical and unproven, and considering the limited likelihood of some kind of surface launch, manual placement is pretty much the only possible option. No evidence conclusively refutes the possibility, and some direct evidence supports it. This includes the noted damage mismatch with the building, the separately distorted harness also being there, etc. My favorite is how the very "grid pattern" coverup helpers love so much is probably a few sets of scratches from when it was moved, with a few small steps, past the broken mesh with some loose ends sticking out. In one spot, a different move leaves 3 scratches that cross some of the other scratches, with the middle wire bending along the way, for a onetime sort of tic-tac-toe effect. If you can't see that possibility right away, then try for a moment. It's well worth seeing and considering.

Michael Kobs first proposed that basic idea, but a Bellingcat ally Marcell VandenBerg copied Kobs' image with a ludicrous "grid" reading. He suggested the mesh was erected in the seen frame, stretched horizontally over the balcony, and the cylinder impacted side-first with that, getting a direct imprint, proving that it fell from the sky. 

If this were so, it WOULD suggest the cylinder landed sideways on the intact mesh, had some parts of the pattern sort of pressed hard into the paint and metal (?), with other parts of the pattern left off somehow, and with no sign of movement in relation to the grid like turning or sliding or encountering any broken wires. Once a still imprint was made, then maybe it bounced cleanly off the grid, leaving no further marks, then something else must've happened that also left no marks, with the mesh breaking away and the cylinder hitting the floor nose-down with its weak yet explosive force - has its aerial harness stripped off and terribly crumpled - tips over outside the crater - is rotated and relocated by hand at least once before most seen images - and all with no further marks past that "grid" imprint. 

This idea seems too stupid for many minds to independently conceive. It was probably from Marcel that Forensic Architecture got the idea, not realizing it was stupid, modeled it out at length apparently without noticing, then had the New York Times see it as genius, including this beautiful modeling of nonsense in their Really Stupid Attempt to Demonize Assad. It wasn't the only rancid brainfart in that show, but it was NYT's and most peoples' favorite, and this program got the NYT a News Emmy award. 

How could the humble OPCW possibly do otherwise? With science, or even common sense. But that isn't so common after all, I guess. Instead, the new report still says:

"6.133 Also visible on the cylinder’s body is the damage pattern that appears to correspond to the grid pattern of the metal mesh present on the rooftop (which lies next to the cylinder). This is consistent with the cylinder having hit the mesh at a considerable velocity, which in turn, would be at odds with the cylinder having been manually placed on the rooftop." 

Included view shows just the "grid" part, not the other lines that help argue FOR "the cylinder having been manually placed on the rooftop." How about that?

Higgins echo-chambering: the IIT's final "assessment of the munition remnants at location 2 (The balcony) are consistent with all the great analysis already done by the likes of the New York Times and Forensic Architecture."  Higgins might have helped FA and thus NYT latch onto Marcel's nonsense theory, before it was just copy-pasted all the way to the top. 

I said I'd try to moderate and see the other side. I just couldn't see this any different on review. Anyone else? Am I just on crazy pills? Can you explain and prove that by showing how this is a real airdrop clue and not the sign of staging it appears to be? 

Briefly on Location 4

The OPCW's "Location 4" is where the other chlorine cylinder "impacted", allegedly penetrating a roof, bouncing into a bed, releasing gas off-and-on, but killing no one ... I often neglect that scene. Same here. 

serious issues with a hole that's about the right shape for a sideways-landing cylinder - and it seems pre-flattened by a sideways impact following some low-level drop or perhaps launch - Henderson's report and most sources since suggest it was manually placed, brought up and set down on the bed, not launched or dropped through that hole. 

In fact, the entry hole (not so much a crater here) seems just barely too small to allow for the full harness AND intact valve, as Michael Kobs and Ian Henderson have independently shown. (pic) 

Eliot and co. have used shifting measurements to pretend they've proven it fits. Both positions seem at least slightly debatable to me, showing ultimately that it's close to the right size, neither a clear fit or misfit. There's also a slight shape misfit - the hole may be a bit too short and a bit too wide to be explained by the cylinder. But again, it's not off by all that much.

How did the IIT confirm Higgins on his trashing of Henderson? This alleged mismatch was a key point in that. 6.291 "The experts consulted by the IIT estimated the overall length of the cylinder’s assembly (including the attached cradle) to be 167.5 cm, which is indeed slightly larger than the 166 cm length of the hole.239 However, the difference is less than one percent." That should be enough to preclude entry, but maybe with a slight tilt or a scraping fin ... And Bellingcat had it smaller than the hole and an obvious fit, changing the measures to suit them and calling it hard fact, and a key reason to dismiss and insult Henderson's findings.

What did cause the damage? I've seen no fragmentation or blast signs here, but (add 2/2) I haven't looked closely so far (and should finally look closer - end 2/2). there is that severe rebar bending. I suspect some mechanical impact, and something quite heavy and/or from quite high. 

The IIT report shows the height a cylinder could fall if dropped from the tall neighboring building, as someone had apparently suggested. Their expert(s) found that insufficient for a filled gas cylinder that size to attain the energy needed. Not just from up there by that missing bit of parapet. The falling cylinder - if it even existed - would have to be higher up, somewhere in the lower sky. 

I suppose the point is debatable, but I don't feel like debating it. They might be right. Maybe it wasn't a cylinder dropped from that roof that made that hole. A cylinder from helicopter level might do it, but it's not the only option. How heavy was that missing bit of parapet they measure to? Or some likely bigger chunks of wall missing now from the wall a bit further out? Just where did all that heavy stuff go after some blast toppled and slightly hurled it in some hard-to-know direction? Through that roof, into that room, then cleaned up some before the cylinder -   All around the hole: lots of concrete rubble that came from somewhere. 

It shouldn't be blown up out of the punched ceiling - so why is it there? And then why do two reinforcing bars appear to curved up from the ceiling? Can a low wall on this roof, knocked over, explain all this rubble? How much rubble is in the room below? Did there used to be more before someone cleaned it up? No ready answers here, just questions worth looking into. 

That's it for now anyway. Hopefully a part 2 soon. 

Continue to part 2.


  1. Just some thoughts, I still think a satellite photo would clear up the historical damage question

    IIT's witness is JaI's spokesman?

    "100 cases" but Douma Revolution and friends didn't manage to film any of them. Also the White Helmet in the hospital videos forgot to then tell the world those people weren't chlorine victims?

    They might be "unaware that the source of the chlorine was on the roof" but they know the source coming into the basement would have to be at ground level. A ground floor apartment with no front door is not "higher ground"

    Noting footnote 128 -IIT has removed "in 24 hours" from "Pathology of Chlorine exposure leading to death in 24 hours". Seems relevant if they are conflating the list with fatality within minutes, interested to know if the theory is that it *isn't* edema foam

    But don't the "witnesses" and "medical personnel" make up one side who is a suspect (if they really considered staging).. they didn't see anything that might implicate themselves.. who knew!

    2.5 hours later isn't the "immediate aftermath" (at temps above 20°C)

    It rained the next morning, 11 am - documented, measured fact and can even be seen in the White Helmets video on the metal frame

    Fig. 16 & Fig. 22
    Still a lampshade (complete with a tear). A lamp in a cardboard box that has fallen over towards the bed, tearing the side of the box.

    6.144, 6.160
    Why humidity rather than whatever it was *washed* with? What was the viscous liquid found in the room?

    Fig. 42
    IIT confirms it would have to be low flying helicopter (and nice to know you really can calculate a drop-height....)

    6.289 "no justification for this minimum height"
    Why would 500m be an unreasonable assumed height when the supposed weapon -
    *has fins that need height to stabilize the cylinder
    *works by mechanical impact
    - and -
    *in the dark
    *in a dust cloud
    *being broadcast live
    *above people who would try to shoot them down
    *witnesses describe it as quiet or just hearing a hissing noise etc.
    *OPCW FFM previously told by witnesses these are dropped from "high altitudes" to avoid ground fire (5.7) S/1230/2014
    + see recent helicopter crash in Ukraine

    Also Mr Henderson *did* conclude that.. #19 "assumed drop heights ... were too high to be able to reproduce the observed impact event" but "the model was not able to reproduce the reinforcement response observed"

    1. 6.291
      "indeed slightly larger than the 166 cm length of the hole"
      Mr Henderson's measurements were correct of course. BC/FA et al should be ashamed at lying about it
      For reference, the measurements of the fins on Mr Henderson's model match those in IIT's Fig. 39. As best I could determine at the time - https://imgur.com/jmXIwWM

      "despite one of the expert reports commissioned by the FFM describing a detailed scenario in which the cylinder bounces and rotates after penetrating the roof" - assuming Mr Henderson was allowed to see this report. He certainly wasn't allowed to discuss it with them. Why did Mr Henderson have to take the expert report as gospel when the IIT appear to dismiss all three?

      "unclear whether the cylinder impacted the floor directly or hit the rooftop wall first"
      Damage to the cylinder can't be consistent with both hitting and not hitting the rooftop wall. This was "the experts ... explanation of the cylinder not penetrating completely through the aperture", so the IIT rejects the FFM's three 'complementary assessments' and their matching of the damage? S/1731/2019 Fig. A.6.5 and A.6.6?

      "297.4 kg" cylinder bounces off the floor and leaves no floor damage to be documented by any of the activists, journalists or inspectors who went there?

      They recovered both cylinders from the same place, L4 cylinder even still had the frame attached. "Narrow doors"? Oh dear
      "A densely populated urban area" but they also note L4 was unoccupied. Even with Hanan living in L2 in the same "urban area" without shelling someone still wandered off with the harness and fins (6.147)

      Finally anyone staging it would have at least a partially filled chlorine cylinder at L4 (6.161).. but staging with bleach?

    2. Hey, Andrew! First point: at purchased high resolution, maybe & maybe not. Otherwise, not. It will always be in shadow. Someone's drone video of the area could do it, if that existed & were public. But I decided to show how, even if it happened the same day, the damage - at the crater itself - was caused by explosives.

      Other points: one for now. Could be Mr. Nema, if that's who you mean and he's out of jail for human rights abuses to explain how they just wanted to save lives.

    3. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp172.pdf - lots of deaths hours to months later, but it says "immediate death follows inhalation of a concentration of 1,000 ppm." That's the level IIT says was exceeded. "Immediate" probably has to be suffocation speed - a few minutes in which a person could probably move. I don't see how it could be any quicker.

    4. Hmm. By 'higher ground' they seem to accept Hanan's account that everyone started in the basement and all were aware of a chemical cloud. 3 minutes for the entire building to be deadly levels but even after the (unknown) time taken to reach the street and then basement they still have to make it upstairs, wash hair?.. and not turn back

      I'd concede the 'cardboard box' with the L4 lampshade could be something else. Whatever is beyond the metal base looks torn to me (1:55 activist video, ~59 seconds)

      Also wonder how/why the random witnesses ended up going to the empty L4 building at midnight or find the cylinder in a closed apartment

  2. I've just seen Maté's new GZ piece, surely the 'new' samples come from the man in the AJ documentary who interfered with the scene before Russia got there and pushed the cylinder into the hole- he is on page 64 of the IIT report.

    Also has the only footage of the tunnels (as far as I know)

    The people shown in the tunnel don't seem particularly 'gassed'


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