Staging Occurred at Douma: Only Deniers Deny That

Nick Waters of Bellingcat doesn’t believe there’s any doubt around what happened at Douma in April of 2018. He believes there’s no evidence the attack was staged. It’s time Nick Waters was presented with the evidence he’s been avoiding looking at.

The calls for OPCW Director-General, Fernando Arias, to give a platform to the brave OPCW-FFM inspectors, who visited Douma in 2018 to investigate alleged chemical weapon usage, continue to gather at pace. So far Mr Arias has refused to hear the concerns of the Douma FFM team who claim their report was doctored, their voices silenced and their findings overruled.

It is alleged that on the 7th April 2018, a chlorine cylinder was dropped onto the balcony of an apartment building in Douma, Syria, partially penetrating the ceiling before the valve became undone unleashing chlorine down into the room below. In a separate, but connected incident, it is also alleged that a chlorine cylinder was dropped onto another rooftop, only this time it smashed through the reinforced ceiling, continued on its trajectory before meeting the floor when it then bounced off the floor and shot across the room at the same orientation as it penetrated the reinforced ceiling before coming to rest on a bed, without damaging it.

Being the first time the OPCW-FFM team were able to actually get to the scene of an alleged chemical attack in Syria to investigate it in person, there was a lot of international focus on the team. What transpired was that upon analysing the cylinders and the scenes the inspectors soon come to suspect the attacks may have been staged.

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, House of Commons, Wednesday 22nd January 2020

Professor McKeigue is a member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (The group that were the original recipients of the Ian Henderson FFM engineering report).

In the aforementioned engineering report Ian Henderson would conclude:

In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with the subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

Ian Henderson, FFM engineering report

What thereafter transpired was nothing short of criminal as the brave OPCW inspectors were vilified and attacked by the Director-General himself as efforts were also made to name one of the whistleblowers through leaked information from an OPCW employee. Aaron Maté of the Grayzone has written an excellent analysis of the saga here.

As more influential voices add their names to letters calling for the OPCW Director-General to allow the Douma FFM inspectors to speak freely about their findings, the more pushback ensues from vested interests. Vested interests that are invested in the “Assad-done-it” mantra remaining the only narrative. Such interests are the US State Department-funded Bellingcat, a well-funded pro-NATO troll farm whose role is to act as an information clearinghouse for junk intelligence from western countries.

It was no surprise then to see Bellingcat’s Nick Waters taking to Twitter to write an emotive, yet angry, thread on the 12th March wherein he scolded Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower, for adding his name to a new letter from the whistleblower’s consortium, The Courage Foundation, who called again on the Director-General of the OPCW to listen to the Douma FFM teams concerns.

Waters begins by pitching his emotive splurge wanting the reader to not so much focus “on a single incident in 2018” (Douma) but rather to believe what has happened in Syria is akin to WW1. This tactic is usually employed when what the author is about to say next doesn’t stand up to scrutiny on its own. The same tactic is used by George Monbiot:

It’s called ‘distraction’. However, Waters goes on to label the other signatories to the Courage Foundation letter as “conspiracy theorists” to believe Douma was a “false flag”. Therefore, Waters argues, he {Ellsberg) is lending cover for “horrific crimes on civilians.”

The conspiracy theorist trope is used in an attempt to shut down debate around a given issue. By labelling your opponents as “conspiracy theorists”, in this context, you’re attempting to discredit them to save you from having to debate them. But that tactic, whilst useful once, is becoming tired. Especially as the list he refers to has 5 OPCW officials added to it.

“If there was any actual doubt (on Douma being a false flag), fair…” says Waters. It’s hard to know if he’s being purposefully stupid, accidentally stupid, deceitful, or all of the above. If there was any actual doubt? Two of the OPCW’s top scientists (ex), who were in Syria, on the ground, one of whom analysed the cylinders, if their finding of staging, censorship and sidelining are not enough to create “doubt” then I’d suggest Mr Waters should come out from his echo-chamber for some socially-distanced fresh air.

“On the night of 7th April two govt helicopters flew over Douma..” states Waters as he points to a Bellingcat report to lend support to his claim. That report concludes the cylinders were..

dropped from a Hip helicopter originating from Dumayr Airbase.

The problem with the Bellingcat/Waters claim is that at no time in the FFM report that was finally released are there any mentions of a helicopter! That claim appears to have originated from Bellingcat.

Aircraft spotters reported two Mi-8 Hip helicopters heading southwest from Dumayr Airbase, in the direction of Douma, 30 minutes before the chemical attack in Douma, and two Hip helicopters were observed above Douma shortly before the attack.

Bellingcat

No one is denying the cylinders “were found at the scene”. In fact it is how they were found the scene that lead experts to believe they were manually placed there. Recall what the OPCW scientist who assessed the evidence said:

In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with the subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

Ian Henderson

The “excellent investigations of the scene” that Waters points to by the NYT and Forensic Architecture contain several fraudulent claims which I have previously written about here and here but for ease of following I will copy some of the material below.

Frosting on the cylinders, as well as on the harness, suggests the canister has gone rapid decompression. Followed by gradual defrosting.

Forensic Architecture

The “frosting” that these “investigators” believe they see was actually white powder.

The cylinder appears to have been cleaned. The layer of a white powder seen in the videos was not present when the FFM team visited the location.

OPCW-FFM Douma Report S/1731/2019 Page 63

To any impartial viewer what is noted on the cylinder is either dust or powder as you clearly see the same substance on the bed and wooden bedside table.

Here is a much better view from side on.

It is fraudulent and/or incompetent for anyone, especially a team of “digital forensic experts” to claim what is on that cylinder is frost. For them to make such a claim, is mind-blowing.

A second example of this “excellent investigations” team that Waters refers to is from the cylinder on the balcony, otherwise known as L2. Note the blackening to the top of the cylinder.

What does Forensic Architecture say about that blackening?

The nose of the canister is discoloured, this is caused by a corrosive acid created when chlorine gas reacts with the water which condenses on the outside of the canister during rapid decompression.”

Isn’t it strange that we didn’t see that ‘discolouration’ on the bed cylinder even though FA claimed it too had went through “rapid decompression”?

Frosting on the cylinders, as well as on the harness, suggests the canister has gone rapid decompression.

But the blackening has nothing to do with chlorine or “rapid decompression”. The explanation is much more simpler than all that psychobabble. It’s smoke damage as a result of a fire lit in the room below.

Firstly, it’s important to note that the cylinder in question was moved and the scene manipulated. Eliot Higgins of the NATO state-funded Bellingcat would be sent a video of the scene in the immediate aftermath of the alleged event which he posted to Twitter before quickly removing.

You will note the orientation of the cylinder on the left which has the darkened side pointing down towards the crater. This was before the scene was manipulated and fresh images posted of the cylinder rotated.

So what was in the room below? A fire.

The FFM team noted the blackening of the ceiling and the rim of the aperture from the room immediately below the point of impact (see photo above). 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.

S/1731/2019 Annex 6 page 58 – FFM Report

On the top side of the crater we see further stagings as a set of wheels, apparently belonging to a harness that was allegedly attached to the chlorine cylinder, are moved around for maximum effect.

As you see, Forensic Architecture will make stuff up to suit the narrative of whoever is paying them. The same thing was said of Bellingcat and Eliot Higgins in leaked Integrity Initiative files. (Integrity initiative are a UK government funded online disinformation group.)

Other concerns were that the CPDA and ISD had analytical shortcomings, and that Bellingcat was somewhat discredited, both by spreading disinformation itself, and by being willing to produce reports for anyone willing to pay. (emphasis added)

Leaked Integrity Initiative Files

I think we can partially agree with Nick here. However, this isn’t a binary issue. It’s not a case of ‘there was either a chlorine attack or there wasn’t.’ Those people were murdered somehow, but according to 4 NATO toxicologists, their displayed symptoms were not consistent with chlorine poisoning.

..the experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure. In particular, they stated that the onset of excessive frothing, as a result of pulmonary oedema, observed in photos and reported by witnesses would not occur in the short time period between reported occurrence of the alleged incident and the time the videos were recorded (approximately 3-4 hours). (emphasis added)

NATO toxicologists for the OPCW

Something and someone killed those people, but it looks like it wasn’t chlorine according to the NATO experts. Given Waters’ inherent bias on the matter, he can’t see past the event being anything other than as the Jihadists reported. For him, it’s a matter of confirmation bias. This idea of starting with a conclusion and working in reverse to make the evidence fit is a rampant methodology in Bellingcat. What happens then is that no matter what counter-evidence is presented to them, no matter how strong it is, they can’t see it or refuse to acknowledge its existence. It all becomes the work or “conspiracy theorists” trying to cover for “war crimes”. When in reality it’s evidence that challenges their narratives and they don’t want to see it.

That tweet speaks for itself but I can use it right back at Waters with a slight tweak.

If you put your name to tweets which claim that there’s been a chemical attack, you should at least understand the evidence rather than dismissing it because it doesn’t fit into your preconceived idea about how the world works.

Waters does what most of his ilk do, accuse others of the very thing they’re doing. There is a wealth of evidence that the scenes at Douma consisted of staging. We have dead bodies being moved around for photoshoots, including the corpses of toddlers. For example, this baby in the nappy was originally recorded here…

But was then lifted….

and placed here…

But as you’ll see next, where they placed the baby there had been a woman positioned initially…

That woman was in turn lifted from the spot and carried to another room and placed in rather bizarre posture..

There are many more incidences that I could show you but it gets rather morbid and uncomfortable showing images of dead babies being moved around like props in a stage show, which is exactly what they seem to have been. The greater point is of course that there is solid evidence of staging at Douma, that shouldn’t still be being questioned. Even a BBC producer confirmed such.

Let’s bring all this together.

  • Staging occurred at Douma
  • Higgins tweeted a video showing the scene at L2 and quickly deleted it
  • The White Helmets would tweet out a different image showing the cylinder rotated and “wheels” moved
  • Corpses were moved around for “maximum effect”
  • NATO toxicologists conclude that symptoms displayed by the corpses are not consistent with chlorine poisoning
  • The New York Times and Forensic Architecture write what can only be deemed, a fraudulent report
  • White powder is not frost
  • Smoke damage caused blackening to the cylinder not “rapid decompression”
  • Claims of helicopters over Douma that night originated from Bellingcat and were left out of FFM report
  • Nick Waters is not the brightest bulb in the box

Hopefully I’ve helped clear this matter up for Nick.

If there was any actual doubt, fair.

Nick Waters – NATO State funded Bellingcat

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