Was Ian Henderson a member of the Fact Finding Mission (FFM) sent to Douma in April 2018? A mission despatched by the UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate claims of Assad having used poison gas in a town just six miles from Damascus?
This is not a trivial question.
Before we get to the matter of OPCW impartiality – which is what the seemingly arcane detail of one man’s presence or absence calls into question – we should recall that on April 14, 2018 the US, UK and France rained missiles on Syrian military bases as ‘punishment’ for a chemical attack they said had been perpetrated by Syrian forces at Douma a week earlier, on April 7.
The shoot-first/ask-questions-later strikes, notes wiki, “came hours before inspectors from the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission was due to arrive in Syria to investigate the attack”.
The grip on the Western public of the Chemical Assad narrative derives from tried and tested techniques of opinion manufacture. One is the frequent repetition – no smoke without fire – of claims with weak evidential support. Another is that once an allegation – a gas attack at Ghouta 2013, say, or Khan Skeykhoun 2017 – finds purchase within a media-consuming public, this same public is all the more willing to accept subsequent allegations of a similar nature.
The overarching and powerfully subliminal context for such opinion manufacture is a belief by most Westerners that (a) we have true democracy, (b) the idea of a ruling class is the infantile fantasy of a lunatic fringe, (c) we have independent media and (d) the West – enriched by slave trade and colonialism; haunted by the Ghosts of Violence Past, Violence Present and Violence Future – has the moral authority to act as global enforcer. All are delusional and easily shown to be so. They are rooted as deeply in mythologies learned in school, and imbibed through the soft propaganda of the entertainment industries, as in the distortions of our news media.
We hear a good deal about Western democracy, and I for one don’t knock it. I think it an excellent idea, but wouldn’t it require an informed electorate? And wouldn’t that require a media untainted by power and unfettered by any ties other than to truth? Truth in the sense of accuracy and immunity from entrenched interest; truth in the sense of facts and interpretations offered with neither fear nor favour on matters vital to the common good?
We have no such media, ergo no real democracy. I’m sure Guardian house radicals1 believe their employer occupies a higher moral plane than Murdoch or the Barclay Brothers. And that the same goes for their colleagues at the BBC. In this they may be right or wrong – I’m curious as to how corporate journalists see themselves – but the more fundamental issue is that of news provision funded by market forces.
Book review: Propaganda Blitz (footnote added)
Aided by these things and by confirmation bias this public forgets, if it was ever aware of, false claims through which past wars have been sold to us. It also ignores, since the evidence will be tucked away in such niche sources as financial media, both the material drivers of our wars on the global south and, more specifically, the fact that plans to remove Assad predate the ‘Arab Spring’ protests at Daraa.
With the exceptions of Peter Hitchens and Robert Fisk, no mainstream journalist has spoken out on the evidential deficiencies of the narrative that (a) Assad is Evil and (b) this is the reason he must go. In fact even this is an understatement. Fisk and Hitchens are fully behind part (a) of that narrative. I’m not so sure, but that’s secondary. In any case their belief that Assad is vile only adds credence to their refusal to ignore the gaping holes in claims used to build consent, meaningless if not informed, to his removal by a West whose true rulers stand to gain (though neither Hitchens nor Fisk go into this aspect) from the fall of the region’s last Ba’athist state.
But what does the inclusion or otherwise of Ian Henderson, in that OPCW mission, have to do with anything? Below, in full, is Caitlin Johnstone’s blog post today …
New OPCW Leaks Prove They Are Lying To Us About Syria
The Grayzone‘s Aaron Maté has published some explosive new leaks from the OPCW which make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that the organisation, and the narrative managers associated with it, have been lying about the investigation into an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria two years ago.
In May of last year an Engineering Assessment signed by South African OPCW inspector Ian Henderson was leaked to the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, saying in direct contradiction of the OPCW’s official findings that the chlorine cylinders allegedly dropped upon the scene via aircraft were in fact “manually placed” there. Since Douma was then occupied by the Al Qaeda-linked and Saudi-backed Jaysh al-Islam group, who were fighting against the Syrian government, this would mean the Syrian government was not responsible for whatever killed dozens of civilians. And it would have the very serious implication that the US, UK and France launched airstrikes against the Syrian government on false grounds.
From the moment Henderson’s leaked document first emerged, both the OPCW and the establishment spinmeisters responsible for managing the imperial narrative on Syria have been dismissing Henderson’s Engineering Assessment on the grounds that he was not a part of the OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), the team which went to Douma to investigate the incident. Since that time mountains of evidence have surfaced both corroborating Henderson’s assessment and revealing that attempts to portray him as not a part of the FFM are disingenuous pedantic manipulations at best, but these new leaks by The Grayzone are the first hard proof we’ve seen that this spin job was actually an outright, bald-faced lie.
The leaked documents include an OPCW security-planning memo labeled “MISSION PERSONNEL” which plain as day lists Henderson as a member of the FFM. The documents also include a letter from the office of then-OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü explicitly asking that Henderson take leadership of inspections in crucial locations, in direct contradiction of the assertion by current Director General Fernando Arias that Henderson only played “a minor supporting role in the investigation of the Douma incident.”
He lied. The Director General of the OPCW lied to the world about the Douma investigation. These new leaked documents show clearly and unequivocally that Henderson was a part of the FFM and played a major role in the investigation, and that we were lied to about both of these things by OPCW officials.
“Let me first turn to the findings of the investigation with respect to Inspector A,” Arias said in a statement this past February, with ‘Inspector A’ referring to Henderson. “Inspector A first worked for the OPCW from June 1997 to December 2005, eventually being promoted to Team Leader. He was rehired at a lower level in June 2016 and worked at the OPCW until May 2019. Inspector A was not a member of the FFM.”
“Inspector A was not a member of the FFM, and his name is not included in the mandates issued for FFM deployments,” reads a February note by the OPCW Technical Secretariat. “He provided support to the FFM team investigating the Douma incident since he was at the command post in Damascus at the relevant time. It is customary for the inspector serving at the command post to provide assistance to the FFM. Inspector A played a minor supporting role in the FFM investigation.”
These were lies, and they were smears. They’ve been repeated and reiterated in various ways since the OPCW scandal first emerged, and have been uncritically repeated as fact by news agencies like AFP and Reuters, as well as establishment narrative managers like Bellingcat, Idrees Ahmad, Nick Waters, Brian Whitaker, and Eliot Higgins.
They have been thoroughly discredited, and Maté reports that more is on the way, writing that a “part two of this article” will soon address the smears which have been leveled at the second OPCW whistleblower.
It has been revealed over the course of the OPCW scandal that US officials have attempted to interfere in the investigation and cajole OPCW inspectors into coming to conclusions which implicate the Syrian government. This would not be the first time the US government threw its weight around to make the OPCW fall in line with its regime change agendas, with threats to cut organisation funding and John Bolton reportedly even threatening a Director General’s children in order to help manufacture the case for the invasion of Iraq. Bolton, for the record, was Trump’s National Security Advisor throughout the entirety of the Douma investigation.
We were lied to about Douma, and we’re being lied to about the coverup. The US has a lot invested in its ability to launch military strikes based on scant or nonexistent evidence without international backlash, so there’s a lot at stake for the corrupt mass murderers in charge of the most powerful military force in the history of civilization. It makes perfect sense that they are doing everything they can to hide the truth.
You want more? Aaron Mate’s exclusive for Grayzone can be read in full here.
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- Speaking of ‘Guardian house radicals’, see my open letter to George Monbiot – OPCW leak: what’s the story, George? – apropos a tweet on Douma.