The Douma Staging: We Need To Talk About Bellingcat

We need to talk about Bellingcat’s motives and agenda on the Douma debacle. Why are they intent on misleading the public
hiddensyria

Date of Report: January 24, 2020

Introduction

The alleged chlorine attack on Douma in April 2018 has been the cause for quite a lot of attention in recent months. We’ve had a veteran OPCW inspector come out claiming the FFM Douma team had its findings rejected, were all effectively dismissed from their roles, and they were cut out of having any input into the final report.

This was followed with a whistleblower, by the name of “Alex”, who then followed suit and lent support to Mr Henderson’s claim.

In short, they claim that the final FFM report wasn’t the report of the Douma team but a report penned by a second FFM team who were located at Country X, that we understand to be Turkey.

US State Department funded Bellingcat and its founder, previously of the NATO funded Atlantic Council, have lead the charge in attacking Henderson and “Alex” and defending the official narrative. They’ve been supported by fringe propagandists and staging denialists such as Brian Whitaker and Scott Lucas. Their shared goal is to discredit the Douma FFM team whilst bolstering the narrative of the team that never visited Douma.

Bellingcat’s position is, however, extremely weak. So much so that they felt the need to pen three rather long-winded reports on the leaks in the space of 8 days. The content of the reports adds nothing to the search for the truth but certainly adds to the confusion and disinformation. A lot of noise and no sound is an apt phrase in this instance.

In this report I will look at the evidence they deliberately ignore and address some of their factually incorrect claims.

And Then There Were Two

According to Henderson and “Alex”, both part of the Douma FFM team, there was a second team known as the “Core Team” that was despatched to “Country X” that we know to be Turkey. They claim that of the Douma FFM team only one person didn’t share their views (that the cylinders were likely placed at their respective locations rather than airdropped) and that was a paramedic who was actually part of the “Core” team and who temporarily worked with the “Douma team”.

To my knowledge, this was the first time that the Fact Finding Mission had effectively split into two separate teams as part of the same mission. We know missions were formed of sub-teams but the understanding has always been these sub-teams formed part of one larger single team.

For some reason this concept wasn’t adhered to regarding Douma and whilst the FFM Douma team was split into 3 sub-teams, the FFM was then split into two teams itself. What adds more suspicion to this idea is that the Turkey team (Core) was the team that wrote the final report whilst the Douma team that carried out the onsite investigations were left out of contributing to the final report. It’s worth bearing that in mind as we go along.

The Role of Ian Henderson

Bellingcat and Brian Whitaker have made concerted attempts at questioning the role of Ian Henderson with Bellingcat going as far as to claim that “Henderson’s report is fundamentally flawed..” and that his report was penned on behalf of the “self-described engineering sub-team“.

They go on to say:

Henderson claims to have been “excluded from the work”, presumably by the FFM team, but that he chose to continue working on his engineering report.

Source

The inference that Henderson was “excluded from the work” by the “FFM” is part of the aforementioned concerted campaign to try and distance him from the FFM and thus diminish his role within the group. This statement is not true, indeed it cannot be true, as Ian Henderson was part of the Douma FFM team. Bellingcat may be referring to the Turkish “Core” team, however they do not make any attempt at distinguishing between the two.

They conclude by flippantly suggesting that “he chose to continue working on his engineering report” (emphasis mine). Again, suggesting he was some kind of maverick penning his own determined report in-spite of his remit.

Here is what Higgins originally said of Ian Henderson:

He claims in an insulting fashion that Henderson was a “disgruntled OPCW employee” and that all who believed him were “conspiracy theorists and chemical weapon denialists” that “all got played“. This gives you a clear insight into the agenda driven process employed by Mr Higgins against the Douma FFM Team and their supporters.

I have already discussed Whitaker’s attempts at attacking Ian Henderson in a recent report.

Ian Henderson in His Own Words

“What the final FFM report does not make clear and thus does not reflect the views of the team members who deployed to Douma. (In which case I can really only speak for myself at this stage)”

Ian Henderson – United Nations 2020

Speaking at the UN recently, at the invitation of the Chinese delegation, Ian Henderson offered us all a fascinating insight into what had went wrong within the OPCW over Douma.

Video Courtesy of @LennyZuber

“There were 2 teams deployed, 1 team, which I joined shortly after the start of field deployments, was to #Douma in Syria, the other team deployed to Country X. “

Ian Henderson – United Nations 2020

Here Henderson states clearly, for the hard of reading, that he “joined” the Douma FFM team “shortly after the start of field deployments”.

“My concern, which is shared by a number of other inspectors, relates to the subsequent management lock-down and the practices in the later analysis and compilation of the final report. “

Ian Henderson – United Nations 2020

So he speaks of himself as ‘an inspector’ not a ‘Staff member’ as per Whitaker or as being ‘excluded by the FFM’ as claimed by Bellingcat.

The main concern relates to the announcement in July/18, of a new concept, the so-called FFM Core Team which essentially resulted in the dismissal of all the inspectors who’d been on the team deployed to locations in Douma and had been following up with their findings & analysis.

Ian Henderson – United Nations 2020

How could a non-FFM member know about, let alone speak about, a “so-called FFM core team”? How could he know these details? How could he know about the “dismissal of all the inspectors” from Douma?

“During and after the Douma deployments and by the time of release of the interim report in July 2018 our understanding was that we had serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred. “

Ian Henderson – United Nations 2020

our understanding was that we had serious misgivings”? If that isn’t evidence he was part of the FFM Douma team then what else could be? If only there was something else though..

In my case I had followed with a further 6 months of engineering and ballistics studies into the cylinders. The results of which had provided further support for the view there had not been a chemical attack.

This needs to be properly resolved, we believe (Douma FFM Team), through the rigours of science and engineering. (emphasis mine)

Ian Henderson – United Nations 2020

Let there be NO doubt that Ian Henderson was a member of the Douma FFM team and he penned the report of the FFM engineering sub-team. This sub-team was one of the three sub-teams deployed to Douma.

The main reason why Henderson may have been “excluded from the work” of the FFM is that the OPCW did not regard him as being part of the FFM team itself, and because the FFM is regarded as a highly confidential mission. Although he deployed in support of the FFM in Douma and was clearly involved in gathering evidence, this does not appear to qualify him as actually being a part of the FFM in the eyes of the OPCW. 

Source – Bellingcat

So when you read stuff like this from a US State Department funded project, appreciate that it is disinformation meant to deceive.

The Crater – Missing The Evidence

In Bellingcat’s latest article they humour the claims that Douma may have been a false flag with the obvious view of rubbishing the same. Of course, in doing so required them to ignore the inconvenient evidence that shows it was – a staged event.

Try, for a moment, to forget about the official charge. Imagine you’re an inspector tasked with assessing a crater that was absent a chlorine cylinder.

In trying to work out what caused the crater you look around to see if there is any evidence of similar looking craters nearby. You find one:

It looks almost identical. So you the begin to assess for other clues. Remember, there is no chlorine cylinder about, so you must employ some investigative skills to ascertain what may have caused the crater. So we check back at our first crater again and scan the immediate area:

Video courtesy of RT.com

You’ll note the scorch damage and explosive fragmentation marks on the surrounding walls. So you move to the underside of the crater to see if that viewpoint offers any further evidence.

Image: Michael Kobs

Here, you see the underside of the crater and I ask you to note the inward rotated rebar as denoted by the red lines. For this to have occurred something had to penetrate the roof and travel onwards through the hole it created, that hole, is the crater we are analysing.

You will also spot similar scorch damage to the ceiling that you witnessed on the balcony. Of the blackening under the crater the FFM report says:

The FFM team noted the blackening of the ceiling and the rim of the aperture from the room immediately below the point of impact. 

S/1731/2019 FFM Report – Annex 6, Page 58

The report goes on to say:

It also noted the blackened sooty walls in the corner of the room, as well as what appeared to be the ashen remnants of a small fire. One interviewed witness stated that a fire had been lit in the room after the alleged incident, reportedly to detoxify it of the alleged chemical. 

S/1731/2019 FFM Report – Annex 6, Page 58

They don’t appear to try and link the fire to the crater rim scorch damage, however, we can see they make be linked from this image:

An educated guess is that the fire was lit to cover the scorch damage caused by an artillery round or mortar, or whatever it was that caused that huge chunk of rebar to break away from the ceiling and end up rotated inwards.

The final FFM Report does not try to qualify the claim the fire was lit to ‘detoxify the room of the chemical’ as made by a single “witness”.

So now we have two similar craters, explosive fragmentation marks on the walls of the balcony, coupled with scorch damage above and below the crater. We’re beginning to think it may have been an artillery round or mortar at this stage so we ask witnesses what happened on the evening the crater is alleged to have been made:

According to statements, the Red Crescent, SCD and rescuers from the medical point could not respond immediately due to the intense shelling taking place at the time and because rescue vehicles were out of service. (emphasis mine)

S/1731/2019  FFM Report – Page 24

Is there any further verification of this shelling?

Some witnesses stated that many people died in the hospital on 7 April as result of the heavy shelling and/or suffocation due to inhalation of smoke and dust. As many as 50 bodies were lying on the floor of the emergency department awaiting burial. Others stated that there were no fatalities in Douma Hospital on 7 April and that no bodies were brought to the hospital that day. (emphasis mine)

S/1731/2019 FFM Report – Page 23

Taking Stock

OK, so we have two similar looking craters close to each other. We have explosive fragmentation marks on the surrounding walls of the balcony of Location 2. We have scorch marks above and below the crater. Then there’s the fully inward rotated rebar, towards the room and away from the crater. We now have witness testimony claiming that the area was under intense artillery bombardment. So what if our next step was to take concrete samples from the balcony and see if they test positive for explosive residue? Under the circumstances this would be proper protocol, you’d assume?

Various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from Locations 2 and 4, along with explosive residue. These results are reported in Annex 5. (emphasis mine)

S/1731/2019 FFM Report – Page 13

The last piece in jigsaw has been found. We have explosive residue found on debris collected from the balcony. This would surely conclude that a mortar or artillery round was the cause of the crater?

Introducing The Cylinder

Eliot Higgins tweeted these images then quickly deleted them. But not before someone took a screenshot of the tweet.

Look at the left picture of the cylinder at Location 2. Note the darkened patched on the nose of the cylinder that’s orientated downwards, towards the crater. Now also note the fellow standing beside the crater:

Here is a better image of the left cylinder in it’s originally found position:

Immediately after Eliot made this tweet the cylinder was rotated 180º and a fresh tweet sent by the “White Helmets” showing its new position:

Now we have the darkened area facing towards the sky and away from the crater and the gentleman has left the scene. What happened next was that Higgins deleted his tweet and this new image by the “White Helmets” became the official photo that would be spread throughout the global corporate press.

Who was that man? And why did he feel the need to rotate the cylinder? And why did Eliot Higgins feel the need to delete his tweet showing the cylinder in a different position than it had now been moved to?

To my knowledge Higgins has never attempted to answer these questions. Why would he feel the need to delete this tweet, I ask again? Some have said it’s because he was in contact with the operatives at the scene. Others have said it was because upon seeing the new position of the cylinder, as tweeted by the White Helmets, he knew it had been moved and thus didn’t want to be going against their narrative management. Whatever his reason; it certainly doesn’t appear innocent in nature.

I have added an update to this section here.

Recap

Having shown the crater at location 2 to be very similar to a neighbouring rooftop crater, added to this the explosive fragmentation to the walls surrounding it, the explosive residue found, the scorch marks above and below the crater, the fully rotated rebar away from the crater – denoting a forceful rotation thus pointing to an object piercing the ceiling and continuing through the crater, it is logical to conclude this was caused by an explosive device. The cylinder narrative does not add up unless you’re into fact-shifting, mental gymnastics and disinformation. Especially when that cylinder was purposely rotated to presumably make it ‘appear better suited’ to the crater. Then there’s the deleted Higgins tweet which strongly suggests he was trying to help shape a narrative and wanted the original evidence erased as he knew it didn’t look right.

The cylinder at Location 4 has already been detailed by myself here, so no need to rehash it all again in this report.

Witnesses

Finally, one would also have had to fabricate reports of two helicopters being in the air above Douma during the timeframe in which this chemical attack happened. 

Source – Bellingcat

Given that no mention of helicopters was made in any of the OPCW reports into Douma this would be a rather easy claim to “fabricate”. Of course Bellingcat may respond by saying ‘It wasn’t the FFM’s role to assign blame and by mentioning helicopters they would be doing just that.’

I would respond by saying that it was the FFM’s remit to report on what witnesses say they saw regardless of what that was. They have done it in the past at Lataminah. In an alleged chlorine attack of March 25, 2017, incidentally using the same type of cylinder as the ones in question at Douma, the FFM reported:

S/1636/2018 -Page 17

So any argument that the FFM wouldn’t mention helicopters as it may point to culpability is, herein, a moot point. The fact is that there is no mention of helicopters outside of Bellingcat and the pro-opposition Sentry Syria. Neither claim was strong enough to make even the interim OPCW report. All internet searches on the claim point back to Bellingcat.

They go on:

None of the witnesses, not even those interviewed in Damascus, appear to have mentioned anything about any group of people being detained and murdered. None mention any bodies being transported into Location 2. It seems extremely unlikely that this could have happened and not a single witness, in either Damascus or “Country X”, mentioned the capture and murder of scores of people, or the reuse of bodies.

Source

This comment is indicative of the absence of any tangible argument they have against the staging of the event. Firstly, witnesses were split up into two groups, those in “Country X” (Turkey) and those interviewed in Damascus by the Douma FFM Team. The interviewing was undertaken separately by the two FFM teams. In Damascus, that team was the team that investigated the sites at Douma. In Turkey those interviewed were done so by the “core team” that went on to write the final report. The same report the Douma team were kept away from.

That said, witnesses who were all huddled indoors, allegedly, due to a lengthy barrage of artillery and mortar strikes would hardly have been sitting at a non-existent window looking out into the street with their cameras. For there were no windows left in Douma going by the footage available. Indeed, we are told by the narrative managers that people were in the basements of buildings. That would hardly be a vantage point for seeing the goings on outdoors.

The Munitions

Of the munitions, Bellingcat writes:

The only reported attacks that these munitions may have been sourced from was a chemical attack on February 25, 2018, in which helicopters were reported to have been involved, and an attack in March 2018.

Source

Of the alleged February 25 attack they linked to the pro-opposition STJ, or Syrians For Truth and Justice, whom Bellingcat work very closely with in relation to these claims of chlorine attacks

Regarding the March 2018 attack they link to a video narrated by Malachy Brown of the New York Times, that tells us absolutely nothing about what it is they are trying to claim. At that, I am not sure that Malachy could be considered a trusted source on the subject matter. He had previously agreed to a “hangout” with me to discuss his otherwise inappropriately named “One Building – One Bomb” report that included two buildings and no bombs.

For months I tried to organise this promised “hangout” but after forwarding him my questions he thereafter ignored me. My guess is that after I pointed out the inaccuracies in his report he decided he couldn’t defend against them and thus fell silent. When the very title of your report is inaccurate and misleading I guess there’s not much hope for the rest of your report!

Other reported chemical attacks in East Ghouta that Bellingcat is aware of used a different method of delivery, specifically an IRAM.

Source – Bellingcat

To support this claim they use the image of a modified 107mm IRAM that is claimed to have landed on this rooftop, relatively unscathed. This event is claimed to have happened on January 22, 2018. I wrote about it in-depth here.

I recorded how the same cylinder, “frost” included, was then carried down to street level, without an apparent care in the world, and was about to be picked up again by a guy with a cloth.

And how it then appeared, disassembled, at a rebel press conference the following day:

This was a staged event and evidentially so. In an upcoming report I will decisively prove this to be the case. In the meantime should Mr Higgins, Bellingcat and/or anyone else wish to challenge me on this claim I will only be too happy to indulge them. If they prefer to wait, I will show exactly how these remnants are nothing other than props.

The Victims

On the poor people who lost their lives: I won’t disparage their memories by throwing around theories of how they may have met their demise. What should be important is the fact they are clearly civilians and whoever killed them deserves our conjoined condemnation. We should all be working together to have them brought to justice. But we won’t, and they will go free, because some are more interested in their egos and appearing all-righteous than they are of the truth being exposed. Someone killed those people. Something killed those people. And those who investigated the incident were dismissed, sidelined and silenced.

Bellingcat was rather disingenuous in their flippancy at rubbishing the idea that the bodies could have brought to the building having been murdered elsewhere. As I said above, I wont speculate on how they died because I simply don’t know and in their memories I do not wish indulge in speculation on their deaths or how they arrived at the locations they were found.

However, I will look at the Bellingcat claims:

There are, of course, no images or videos showing any of these 34 bodies being unloaded from the cars they were allegedly transported in. No witnesses interviewed immediately after the attack by journalists or the OPCW reported bodies being transported into this location. 

I find this commentary derogatory and without basis as Bellingcat are claiming the lack of evidence is proof of evidence to the contrary. If, and I say ‘if’, bodies were brought in from outside for a staging event it is very highly unlikely those responsible would have recorded themselves doing so. I would go as far as to say, it simply would never have happened. Why would it have?

According to 8.44 of S/1731/2019 FFM Report;

A military campaign took place in Douma from approximately 16:00 on Friday, 6 April 2018 until the morning of Sunday 8 April 2018. During this period, witnesses stated that most families gathered to take shelter in the basements of houses and/or buildings across the residential area of Douma. 

Given such an intense barrage of artillery, when most people would be in the basement of buildings, it is unthinkable that someone would be sitting upstairs in buildings under attack with a camera filming what’s going on. What makes me say this? Because there is no footage from anyone from the immediate vicinity at this time showing anything resembling such a scenario.

Dust Inhalation?

Some believe that all these people were killed by “dust inhalation”. This narrative first appears to have been written about by Robert Fisk who, although he visited Douma, did not actually bother to find or visit the building where the attack happened.

Source – Bellingcat

Again we see Bellingcat trying to suggest uncomfortable facts are somehow the words of some singular source who is easily dismissed. But if we look at the final FFM Report we see quite a lot of references to victims suffering with “dust inhalation”:

8.48 Medical staff interviewed by the FFM team members provided their account of events at the hospital on that day. A number of these witnesses reported that there were many fatalities caused by suffocation from dust and rubble as a consequence of the heavy shelling. The number of deaths was exacerbated by the absence of ambulance and rescue services. (Emphasis mine)

S/1731/2019  FFM Report – Page 22

And again here:

8.49 Shortly after 19:00, 10 to 20 patients, including children and adults, arrived in groups at the emergency department of Douma Hospital covered in dust and with blackened faces. They had respiratory difficulties that included dyspnoea, coughing and asthmatic exacerbation secondary to exposure to smoke and dust. Staff from other medical points close to Douma hospital also stated that they received casualties with similar signs and symptoms. 

S/1731/2019  FFM Report – Page 22

How did Bellingcat miss all this stuff?

8.53 Some witnesses stated that many people died in the hospital on 7 April as result of the heavy shelling and/or suffocation due to inhalation of smoke and dust. As many as 50 bodies were lying on the floor of the emergency department awaiting burial. Others stated that there were no fatalities in Douma Hospital on 7 April and that no bodies were brought to the hospital that day. (Emphasis mine)

S/1731/2019  FFM Report – Page 23

So regardless of where these claims of victims suffering from, and succumbing to, “dust inhalation” originated from they were also recorded in the final FFM report at length. Whilst Bellingcat likes to ask that we believe some aspects of that report, that fits with their conclusions, they also ask that we disregard the parts that don’t. They can’t have it every way.

These claims were made by “witnesses” interviewed by the FFM team and unless Bellingcat wants to add them to their long list of ‘people to attack for disagreeing with our narrative’ then we can only assume that whoever wrote the Bellingcat report did so without having read any of the documentation relating to the event.

When you consider the chaos of that night, and the other requirements we’ve explored below, the idea that all these people were killed by a mechanism other than chlorine inhalation and the building was prepped to make it look like a chlorine attack in the course of just a few hours pushes the boundaries of absurdity.

Source – Bellingcat

What “pushes the boundaries of absurdity” is Bellingcat [a Dolly Mixture of of experience and backgrounds ranging from an ex-ladies underwear salesman to a whose-who of anti-Russian bloggers] believing that their theories of what happened outweighs the conclusions of a professional group of independent experts consisting of:

Three Toxicologists/Clinical pharmacologists” and “1 bioanalytical and toxicological chemist” all of whom were “specialists in CW (chemical weapons).

Source

Here was the conclusion from this interaction of experts:

The OPCW team gathered after the meeting and reviewed the salient points discussed. It was agreed among all present that the key “take-away message” from the meeting was that the symptoms observed were inconsistent with exposure to chlorine, and no other obvious candidate chemical causing the symptoms could be identified. (Emphasis FFM)

Source

These are the words of highly professional and competent experts in the field of chemical weapons. Here are the words, again, of a US State Department funded group of hobbyists founded by a gentleman, that not that many years ago, was selling ladies underwear:

When you consider the chaos of that night, and the other requirements we’ve explored below, the idea that all these people were killed by a mechanism other than chlorine inhalation and the building was prepped to make it look like a chlorine attack in the course of just a few hours pushes the boundaries of absurdity.

Informed Sources

Shortly after Mr Henderson’s UN video presentation I raised, what I believed to be, a salient point, and a point that Henderson ended his presentation on, and that was his concluding comments on the Barzah SSRC facility that he was Inspections Team Lead at. He investigated the complex both prior to, and after, the US strikes and found no traces of prohibited chemicals. I believed his comments contained more information than the word content suggested.

I contacted someone who is close to the Chinese delegation that invited Mr Henderson to speak at the meeting. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked a few questions, some were answered and some not. I believe firmly in the principles of OSINT and as such I would be the first the argue that if something isn’t open-sourced then it obviously isn’t OSINT. I won’t try and change your mind on this. Take this information on face value and make of it what you will. What I can say in my defence of offering such information is that thus far any source that has given me information has been shown to be right. I try my very best to cross-reference and validate all I’m told and in the short time I have been blogging I have gathered a very strong and wide spreading list of well-informed people that I can contact.

This person informed me that Henderson had applied for a visa to attend the conference but it was ‘stalled by the US….on claims of paperwork not being correct..’ It was “the Chinese delegations own efforts that convinced Ian Henderson to come forward.”

Me: Will the written submission from Ian Henderson be made public?

Source: Ian Henderson specifically requested that it wouldn’t be made public because he believes in the OPCW as an organisation…. and it was never his desire to speak outside of the organisation. His name has become known because a document he wrote as part of the FFM team was leaked….. He didn’t leak it and had nothing to do with [it] being leaked.

What did he mean about Barzah SSRC, why mention it?

Source: It tells its own tale…… There were no chemical weapons found at Barzah before US attacked it. An official OPCW team visited the site lead by Ian Henderson and their conclusions have never been questioned. The site was attacked as part of the great US lie. Henderson was drawing attention to this….. You are right to focus on this and he was right to mention this…..

Ian Henderson could face “violation of confidentiality” issues with OPCW this is why he made his submission to the UN panel as he felt this was the most appropriate forum to do so. The Douma FFM team want to speak freely about their findings gathered at Douma but the OPCW is refusing to allow them the opportunity to do so.

I then received an email informing me that one of the “3 independent experts” referred to in the final “Core” team’s report (for you and me that is the final FFM report) was Professor Paul Blanc. He was the gentleman that Bellingcat contacted for their recent report: “The OPCW Douma Leaks Part 1: We Need To Talk About “Alex”.

Soon after, Bellingcat released the above linked report featuring none other than Paul Blanc. I asked a few people who would be better informed than I if this claim held merit. One confirmed that was the name he had been given months ago as one of the OPCW experts consulted and the others lent the claim tacit support. Can I confirm for sure he is ‘one of the 3’? No. But it’s an interesting claim all the same and not without foundation.

Then on Wednesday 22, January 2020, Professor Paul McKeigue of the University of Edinburgh, and member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (The group that were the original recipients of the Ian Henderson penned FFM Report), spoke at a briefing at the House of Commons regarding the recent OPCW debacle. At the presentation Prof McKeigue said:

We now know that the OPCW inspectors who deployed to Douma had, in the words of Ian Henderson, “serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred”. One of them [a Douma OPCW inspector] has told us that it took him only an hour on site to see that the scene had been staged, and crudely staged at that.” (Emphasis mine)

Professor Paul McKeigue

I have been given Professor McKeigue’s permission to quote his remarks.

This is alarming and goes further than anything we have heard to date from the Douma team. Whilst Ian Henderson concluded his team felt the cylinders were likely manually placed rather than airdropped he didn’t go as far as to claim staging – whilst that is what he was no doubt inferring.

Now we have another Douma team member saying he detected staging within an hour of being onsite and noted that it was ‘crudely setup’.

Conclusion

It is likely that I’ll add to this report with further additions, as more information becomes verified, but for now I will draw to a close.

There should be little doubt that Bellingcat are front-and-centre of the ‘Douma narrative management committee’. They ask that you entertain the idea that the entire Douma FFM team are lying, along with the experts they consulted. But that wasn’t always their position because before the FFM engineering document was leaked, and few were aware Ian Henderson, Bellingcat was insisting that we all believe the OPCW-FFM implicitly and anyone that dared question them was a “war-crimes denier”, “Assadist” and/or a “conspiracy theorist”. After the leaking of the FFM engineering report they changed their tune and asked that we believe the FFM, just not Ian Henderson. That then expanded to asking that we believe the FFM but not Henderson or “Alex”. That has now became that we believe the FFM that went to Turkey and not any of the FFM Douma Team. In essence what Bellingcat is asking is that we believe them and nobody else.

If we employed the use of “Occam’s Razor” it would lead us to concluding that Douma was staged. Here are the basics:

  • Two similar craters on nearby rooftops
  • Blast fragmentation and scorch damage above and below the L2 crater
  • Broken rebar denoting a projectile entry into room below L2
  • A moved and rotated cylinder at L2
  • Higgins deleted tweet showing cylinder at previous position
  • No witnesses recorded as mentioning helicopters in OPCW reports
  • L4 cylinder, fitted with tail-fins lands horizontal and not vertical as would be expected
  • It proceeds on the same trajectory into the room below, not changing orientation
  • It hits the floor and jumped across the room landing on a bed at the same angle it hit the roof
  • The bed was not damaged
  • Witnesses reported heavy shelling that night
  • Witnesses reported deaths from dust inhalation
  • Medics working that night say victims were treated for dust inhalation
  • Medics and witnesses claim that the first they knew about claims of a chemical attack was when men ran into the hospital shouting “Chemicals” – panic ensued
  • Witnesses were brought to the UN, with the help of Russia, to give testimony – they confirm what witnesses in the FFM report say — no chemical attack
  • The Douma FFM team conclude that the cylinders were likely placed at their respective locations rather than airdropped – we know manual manipulation was recorded of the cylinders
  • The Douma FFM team were dismissed from further investigating the incident and instead a team that didn’t visit Douma was tasked to write the report
  • From here the Douma team were cut-off from the entire process
  • The Douma FFM team have asked they are allowed to speak freely and openly about their findings and their misgivings but have been prevented from doing so
  • The Douma FFM team consulted experts in chemical weapons who concluded the victims most likely didn’t die from chlorine poisoning
  • A member of the Douma FFM team has now claimed they became aware the scene had been “crudely staged” after being onsite for less than a hour

Occam’s Razor would result in a finding of the event being staged. The more complicated, mind-bending, and fact-shifting narrative is that the event occurred by helicopters (that nobody reportedly saw) dropping cylinders on two buildings that turned out to have some very interesting magical qualities about them. That the experts consulted by the Douma team were wrong; that the Douma team’s dismissal is nothing to be concerned about; that Henderson is a maverick who wrote a report for himself and got upset when it wasn’t added to the final report; that “Alex” aided in the misinformation and that Wikileaks is a Russian asset; the Working Group are “pro-Assad” and that anyone who believes the Douma FFM team are all conspiracy theorists.

We needed to talk about Bellingcat; their motives and their agenda and we did. You can now make an informed decision on what you believe happened at Douma. I believe the word of the inspectors that visited the sites, as it closely matches up to the available evidence. I guess that makes me one of Bellingcat’s “conspiracy theorists” then? Given the alternative is to believe their agenda driven, US State Department funded narrative, I think I will accept the title with pride.

Updated 20:20 GMT January 27, 2020:

I have been informed that the Higgins did offer a reason as to why he deleted the tweet of the cylinder at L2:

I am not sure how showing the lower-half of a person could possibly “ID” them and why that would be even be an issue given he was in opposition controlled territory. Who or what was he afraid of? And how did the cylinder become rotated?

Higgins goes on to accept that the canister was rotated but then offers apologia for that rotation:

Regardless of why the tweet was deleted the fact stands that upon the White Helmets tweeting their tweet the cylinder had been rotated 180º, the markings of the wire grill were now visible and the man had left the scene.

Updated 22:20 GMT January 27, 2020:

Professor Paul Blanc answered some questions I put to him:

1. Could you confirm for me if you have at any time carried out any work for the OPCW either directly or indirectly? Not correct. I have not.
2. Could you specifically address the claim that you were involved in the FFM report into Douma? Not correct. No involvement 
3. Is there anything else you would like to add? No

6 thoughts on “The Douma Staging: We Need To Talk About Bellingcat

  1. The Higgins deleted tweet- (apologies for repeating links etc. here) the image is taken from the balcony video from April 8
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxogcgHtAFQ

    At the time, the video was not public and he refused to share it to protect their identity. Not-quite-OSINT as is quite often the Bellingcat way.
    https://twitter.com/EliotHiggins/status/991248468671909889

    The White Helmets video on April 9 was in response to the Russians arriving at the building
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFKkTwa0TBM

    https://twitter.com/syriacivildef/status/983768284133806080

    *But*.. as you note, the cylinder had moved. A red cloth had appeared next to it and the ‘mesh imprint’ scratches are only visible from this point onwards. So impossible to say it was that particular activist moved the cylinder. Equally, the Russians had no reason to tip the cylinder into the hole and do not appear to be carrying that cloth.

    In yet another Forensic Architecture mistake, they wrongly claim the cloth had been “among the debris”
    https://youtu.be/Z-hw9bBCCZM?t=139

    The nearby crater can be clearly seen on Google Earth (5/6/2017). The crater is 100% historical damage, the roof appears to be damaged before April 7 2018 too.

    Supposed witnesses did make (unconvincing) claims to the press about seeing leaking “gas bombs as they dropped from the planes”
    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/syria-chemical-attack-lungs-shutting-180408123716663.html

    Heavy shelling and the White Helmets unable to move through Douma – FFM 8.63 reveals that at 9pm they managed to rescue only 20 to 25 people from adjacent buildings, most had already “self-extricated”. If claims are true, more than 50 had already left from the neighbouring basement alone
    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/the-little-girl-whose-agony-set-the-west-on-path-to-war-gwv0d0rfl

    Nasser Hanan (Bellingcat’s ‘first hand witness’) also says he sat down on the floor outside – without being blown up by all the shelling – and with claims of up to 500 seeking treatment that night it seems everyone else could move through the streets.. or are not telling the truth.
    https://youtu.be/KDey9vvPmlM?t=54

    Bellingcat also refers to the video above: “Journalists … noted an irritating smell.” but Stefan Borg doesn’t say “chlorine” but “something I don’t recognise”. There is also a bathroom in the basement
    https://youtu.be/S_WX10kqwbo?t=149

    The White Helmet’s fire hose can be seen going into the house when they removed bodies in an undignified way the next day, so they washed who knows where before journalists ever arrived
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEx5DVBwgdk

    Many, many other points, too many to add but hopefully some helpful here.

  2. To me the ‘projectile going through the roof’ element looks more like spalling than penetration by a projectile. Most likely a mortar or artillery round detonated on the top surface resulting in a shock wave that spalled off the interior ceiling followed by slower acting over-pressure wave forcing some of the top and central material through the hole.

    Snapped and bent re-bar could be expected in this scenario though I have seen other examples where the rebar remains intact but bent.

    If a projectile had penetrated the ceiling you would expect to see its remnants in the room and/or blast effects. None are obvious.

    See “Warhead penetration in concrete protective structures” which discusses the entire topic (though the thesis is mainly about solid penetrators)

    https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:456596/FULLTEXT01.pdf

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