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Post-Truth World: An OPCW Cover-up, Shielded by MSM and Bellingcat

Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

Another week, another leak.

If you haven’t already heard, UN-chartered international chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) based in The Hague, Netherlands, is still leaking like a sieve.

On Friday night, online publisher WikiLeaks released the latest set of internal documents relating to the OPCW’s Fact Finding Mission (FFM) and investigation into the alleged ‘chemical attack’ to Douma, Syria in April of 2018.  As with the previous releases, these documents are highly damning, and point to both US meddling and an institutional cover-up at the executive level.

Readers will note that the 2018 decision to bomb Syria just days after the alleged incident, was predicated on the unshakable belief by US, UK and French government leaders and their corporate mainstream media support network – of their own self-styled unified official narrative, one which immediately attributed blame to the Syrian government for the supposed ‘chemical weapon’ event. This ‘rapid reaction‘ determination resulted in the tripartite joint airstrike launched against Damascus by the US, UK and France. Skeptics at the time questioned how this axis of consensus was gleaned so quickly before the OPCW FFM team was allowed to investigate what actually happened. Now we know.

The WikiLeaks summary of this latest document set reads as follows:

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Today WikiLeaks releases more internal documents from the OPCW regarding the investigation into the alleged chemical attack in Douma in April 2018.

One of the documents is an e-mail exchange dated 27 and 28 February between members of the fact finding mission (FFM) deployed to Douma and the senior officials of the OPCW. It includes an e-mail from Sebastien Braha, Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, where he instructs that an engineering report from Ian Henderson should be removed from the secure registry of the organisation:

“Please get this document out of DRA [Documents Registry Archive]… And please remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever in DRA”.

The main finding of Henderson, who inspected the sites in Douma and two cylinders that were found on the site of the alleged attack, was that they were more likely manually placed there than dropped from a plane or helicopter from considerable heights. His findings were omitted from the official final OPCW report on the Douma incident.

Another document released today contains minutes from a meeting on 6 June 2018 where four staff members of the OPCW had discussions with “three Toxicologists/Clinical pharmacologists, one bioanalytical and toxicological chemist” (all specialists in chemical weapons, according to the minutes).

The purpose of this meeting was two-fold. The first objective was

“To solicit expert advice on the value of exhuming suspected victims of the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018”. According to the minutes, the OPCW team was advised by the experts that there would be little use in conducting exhumations. The second point was “To elicit expert opinions from the forensic toxicologists regarding the observed and reported symptoms of the alleged victims.”

More specifically,

“…whether the symptoms observed in victims were consistent with exposure to chlorine or other reactive chlorine gas.”

According to the minutes leaked today: “With respect to the consistency of the observed and reported symptoms of the alleged victims with possible exposure to chlorine gas or similar, the experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure”.

The OPCW team members wrote 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”.

The third document is a copy of OPCW e-mail exchanges from 20 to 28 August 2018 discussing the meeting with the toxicologists.

The fourth document is an e-mail exchange from the end of July 2018 where it is stated that the eight OPCW inspectors deployed to Douma during the fact finding mission (except one, a paramedic) should be excluded from discussions on the project.

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As with the previous leaks (all previous leaks are available on WikiLeaks OPCW page), this latest revelation is no less damning, and exposes an internal cover-up of evidence which would have ruled against the US-UK-FR official ‘unified’ narrative blaming the “Assad regime” and subsequent decision to fire cruise missiles into Syria.

The leak also exposes how the OPCW’s FFM ground team would later be shut-out of the preparations for the final public report – a move which flies in the face of standard operating procedures.

The mainstream reaction to this latest leak is much the same as the previous ones – total silence by corporate and state-run media outlets in the West. Instead of mainstream journalists covering the new evidence, what we see is the usual media operatives being deployed in order to direct traffic on social media – away from any conclusion which might undermine the official western narrative.  Also we see an attack on any dissenting opinions from media and academia, and most importantly: to try and discredit OPCW whistleblowers, as well as the source of this latest batch of documents, WikiLeaks.

Frontrunning this concerted campaign to discredit the OPCW whistleblowers is the US, UK and Dutch government-funded ‘investigative group’ Bellingcat.  Not surprisingly, the group is constantly being showered with awards and placed PR features in leading mainstream publications. Superciliously, Bellingcat describes itself on its social media profile as “Award-winning open source investigation.” Just this past month, a documentary film about Bellingcat, entitled, Truth in a Post-Truth World won an International Emmy Award in New York City. Of course, the irony of the film’s title becomes clearer once you begin reviewing the lengthy catalog of incidences where Bellingcat has actually fabricated its ‘evidence’ – whether it is recycling images of chlorine cylinders to create stories of supposed ‘chemical attacks‘ in Syria, or aiding NATO member states (Bellingcat’s sponsors) to achieve their geopolitical objectives – even if that entails libeling a real journalist in the process, as was the case with Bellingcat’s hamfisted effort to smear international arms trafficking investigator and journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva.

It should be noted that from the very beginning of the Douma story (and much like every other ‘chemical’ incident in Syria), Bellingcat has vigorously defended the official western government version of events used to launch the April 2018 missile strike on Syria. No surprise there. After all, why would the cat bite the hand that feeds it?

Straight out of the gates, one of Bellingcat leading media operatives, Nick Waters, took to Twitter to try and discredit OPCW staff by painting FFM engineer and author of the first leaked report, Ian Henderson, as some “rogue” outsider, and later OPCW whistleblower “Alex” as a liar:

In keeping with the familiar pattern of passing the propaganda baton, The Telegraph newspaper’s Middle East correspondent in Beirut, Josie Ensor, quickly amplifies Water’s defamation campaign to discredit the whistleblowers and WikiLeaks, while steering people away from the narrative-changing evidence that has been leaked by OPCW staff:

Ensor is part of a conclave of western mainstream ‘Syria’ correspondents who rarely, if ever, steps foot inside of Syria (unless it’s via the Turkish border into al Qaeda-controlled Idlib province), and who consistently defers to Bellingcat while carefully adhering to the official US-UK government narrative on anything pertaining to Syria. Moreover, it is these and other high-profile journalists who have promulgated the myth of the “moderate rebel” and the “peaceful uprising” in Syria since 2011. This coordinated propaganda effort has been central in helping to keep the US and Gulf-led proxy war against Syria going for nearly nine years now.

SEE ALSO: Mainstream Media on OPCW Leaks – The Good, Bad and Downright Ugly

Note that the initial leaked engineering report which came out earlier this year was provided by a whistleblower to the Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda (WGSPM), who then published the previously suppressed report along with a detailed analysis and commentary.

Not content to smear the OPCW whistleblowers, Waters goes on, this time attempting to discredit WikiLeaks by claiming the online whistleblower publication is ‘pushing an agenda’, all the while steering his followers away from the facts contained in the leaked revelations.

The fact that Bellingcat is frontrunning on narrative enforcement is important when one considers that nearly all of the western mainstream media’s Middle East correspondents follow and promote Bellingcat, as an easy one-stop shop for any ‘evidence’ or views needed to fill in the gaps of any story involving the supposed crimes of the ‘Assad regime’ or the Russian Federation. This is essentially how this echo chamber is functioning now, and with very little critical thought as to the province of the unified western narrative. Yet, despite all of the overwhelming new evidence from the OPCW, which should at the very least raise reasonable doubt as to the western alliance’s predetermined conclusion regarding Douma’s dubious ‘chemical attack,’ the western mainstream press and political leadership are completely silent, save for a few individuals like British journalist Peter Hitchens from the Mail on Sunday.

None of this bodes well for either the OPCW, the mainstream media or those governments who, like it or not, are now actively involved in the cover-up of what can only be described as war crimes. As 21WIRE writer Sheila Coombes commented in her report filed earlier this month:

That this was ignored and that Ian Henderson, author of the suppressed but leaked Engineering report, was frogmarched off the OPCW site, is indicative of corruption at the highest ranks of this formerly admirable UN organisation.

The OPCW’s first ever Director General, Jose Bustani, appointed when it was formed in 1997 states that he now hopes the organisation, “Can be resurrected to become the independent and non-discriminatory body it used to be.”

As this story continues to unravel (and it will), the multitude of establishment gatekeepers and internet cops who are hell-bent on defending the West’s holier than thou official narrative, are left with no face-saving options other than a grand mea culpa. Perhaps that would be too much to ask. Instead, with spade in hand, they have opted to continue digging a deeper hole, and in the end, will have thoroughly discredited themselves as the objective journalists and pundits they constantly claim to be.

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Author Patrick Henningsen is an American writer and global affairs analyst and founder of independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire, and is host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR). He has written for a number of international publications and has done extensive on-the-ground reporting in the Middle East including work in Syria and Iraq. See his archive here.

READ MORE OPCW NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire OPCW Files

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