One of the clearest indicators of the legitimacy or otherwise of Western military actions is the coverage that is given to it by the western media. When evidence emerges that the given military action was at best ill-founded and more often blatantly illegal under international law, then the western media is silent as to any criticism. Alternatively, it gives undue prominence to self-serving and frequently blatant falsehoods about the actions in question.
This proposition has been amply illustrated in the past fortnight or so with evidence emerging about the circumstances surrounding the explanations given by the Organisation for the Prevention of Criminal Weapons (OPCW) as to the circumstances relating to an alleged chemical attack by Syrian government forces in the urban district of Douma on 7 April 2018.
On that date the Syrian Armed Forces were alleged to have used banned chemical weapons upon the civilian population of Douma, causing multiple deaths. The evidence to support these allegations came from terrorist groups and their supporters, including the misnamed independent group the White Helmets whose British leader James Le Mesurier recently died in unclear circumstances at home in Istanbul.
Three western nations, the United States, United Kingdom and France, immediately seized upon the allegations and a week later mounted approximately 100 air attacks upon Syrian targets in retaliation for the alleged atrocity of a week earlier.
That these attacks were themselves a gross violation of international law was a detail that appeared to elude western media reports. That such an attack occurred furthermore, before there had been even the beginnings of an investigation, let alone a report setting out the facts, was another detail that the western media overlooked.
Since then, a substantial number of relevant details have emerged, although the reporting of them again does no credit to the western media. The historical details and the relevant conclusions are set out in two detailed reports in the alternative media which people interested in determining the facts are encouraged to read. These two reports are an editorial “More Damning Evidence of a PCW Cover-up in Syria” and an article by Aaron Mate` “New Leaks Shatter OPCW’s Attacks on Douma Whistle Blowers.”
Two reports produced by the OPCW in July 2018 and March 2019 appeared to confirm the allegations made by the western nations, in justifying their illegal bombing raids, that chemical weapons had been used by Syrian government forces. The essence of the OPCW claim was that the Syrian government had used reactive chlorine dropped on civilians from the air. That was the version widely reported in the western media and never corrected.
The WikiLeaks organisation was the first to disclose that this essential claim was in fact false. Rather than an air attack, the gas cylinders displayed by the rebel groups as evidence of an air attack were in fact placed where they were photographed to support the allegation of Syrian government illegality. Evidence as to what had actually happened was provided to the OPCW by their highly qualified and experienced inspectors who investigated on the scene, and produced detailed reports for OPCW headquarters.
It is one of the great scandals of this whole episode, that not only were the reports of the on the scene OPCW experts suppressed, but that a manifestly false version of their findings was used by the OPCW in its reports.
A total of three 0PCW whistle blowers have now come forward to rebut the organisations official findings. The evidence, released in a variety of formats, but perhaps most conclusively in evidence given to the United Nations Security Council by Ian Henderson, a highly qualified and vastly experienced long time OPCW employee.
Mr Henderson’s testimony made it abundantly clear that the OPCW had not only suppressed the evidence obtained by its on the ground experts, those experts were threatened in a variety of ways if they dared to contradict the official OPCW version.
Insight into the motives of the OPCW to publish manifestly false details can be seen in the visit to the headquarters in The Hague by three United States officials. The purpose of their visit was to implore the three experts to accept the official version that it was the Syrian government that was responsible for the chemical attack. They all refused to be a party to this manifold falsehood.
On 6 February 2020 in what Strategic Culture accurately describes as an extraordinary statement the Director-General of the OPCW (Fernando Arias) issued a statement alleging the members of his staff who investigated the alleged attack and provided unanimous conclusions that the reported attack details, were manifestly false, including but not limited to, the alleged chemicals used, and the circumstances of the deceased persons cause of death.
The Inspector General’s statement contained a number of manifestly false allegations, the details of which are set out in Mr Mate’s article. Suffice to note here that it is extraordinary that a presumably independent organisation should be a party to manifest falsehoods. Further, that the management should mount a clearly false set of allegations against highly qualified and undoubtably independent witnesses.
One of those independent witnesses, identified only as “Alex” gave an interview to the United Kingdom reporter Jonathan Steel. “Alex” told Mr Steel that “most of the Douma team felt the two reports on the incident, the interim and final reports, were scientifically impoverished, procedurally irregular and possibly fraudulent.”
The evidence that has emerged, despite the efforts of OPCW management and members of their staff, confirms “Alex’s” criticism. To the Syrian victims of this appalling story must therefore be added another victim, the OPCW itself. This may well prove the longer term victim, that a previously respected and believed to be independent organisation, has now compromised itself in response to undoubted pressure from at least one western government.
The OPCW future as an independent investigator is thus inevitably compromised. The world is a poorer place as a consequence.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.