Part 2 of 3 --
"Assad's sarin-rockets" hoax
Denis O'Brien, PhD
1 -- Sourcing the sarin
Part 3 -- "Premise I and the Sarin
Fig. 1. Diagram of so-called "sarin rocket"
report of Sep18|2013 adapted by
Lloyd & Postol, Jan14|2014
Over the last 2+ years since the Ghouta Massacre
on Aug21|2013 I have written a number of pieces analyzing what is known
about the massacre, including a 290 page online book titled "Murder
in the SunMorgue." But I have largely ignored the rocket/munitions issues,
three reasons: First, I have very little training in munitions and no
formal education in how to identify or use them. As a Marine recon/forward observer
I called in my share of artillery attacks in Vietnam, but that's about as far
as my direct experience with munitions goes -- calling in coordinates and
then watching them drop out of the sky
and go "boom."
Second, based on experience that I do
have in research and teaching in the field of neuropharmocology, I concluded
from the very first Ghouta videos published on YouTube that the victims I
was seeing could not have
been poisoned by the neurotoxin sarin. (I walk through this
whole argument in Part 3 of this series.)
Consequently, I quickly formed a professional opinion that all of
the talk about sarin-rocket trajectories and payloads and impact sites is just red-herring
intended as part of a false-flag enterprise.
And the third reason I
avoided the rockets issue is that the whole issue was so hopelessly tainted by the fact that nobody
knows how any of the rocket evidence was handled prior to any
investigators reaching the scene. Although lots of videos and photos
uploaded to the Internet show rockets sticking out of the ground or lying
on someone's terrace, not a shred of evidence that has been
presented by the UN or OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons) or anybody else regarding any rocket alleged to be a "sarin-rocket"
would hold up -- or even be admissible -- in any
competent court of law.
Nevertheless, from a historical point of view it is important to
understand how Obama's "Assad's sarin-rockets" meme developed and to
remind people how incredibly flimsy the case for sarin-rockets was, and
still is. And from the viewpoint of the overall theme of this blog
-- taking the BS outa' the blogosphere and MSM -- it is worthwhile making a record of how, once again, an incredibly
misinformed, hawkish MSM enthusiastically supported an American
president's case for going to war with a Middle Eastern, Muslim country --
a case for war that had no valid factual basis, not just in retrospect but
in real time.
let's-bomb-Assad syllogism, which serves as the focal point of this
- Premise I:
The hundreds of dead people in Ghouta we see in
the YT videos were killed by sarin;
- Premise II:
Only Assad's military had access to sarin and
only they had the technology to handle it and weaponize it, which is
to say load it into rockets that were fired into Ghouta;
Therefore, only Assad's military could have been
responsible for the Ghouta Massacre.
QED: Assad "gassed his
Falsifying Premise II - Step 2: Sorting out Obama's sarin-rockets
I am focusing first on Obama's second
premise. The objective of the previous post -- Part
1 of this series -- was to review Obama's allegation that in August|2013
when the Ghouta Massacre occurred, Bashar al-Assad's Syrian Arab
Army (SAA) was the only player in the Syrian civil war with
access to sarin, the deadly neurotoxin that the USG and the
world's MSM claimed was used to kill hundreds of children, women, and men
in communities near Damascus. Poking huge holes in the idea that
only Assad's people had sarin was Step #1 in falsifying Premise II. The present Step # 2 in falsifying Premise II will look at the incredibly flimsy evidence that
rockets were fired by the SAA (or by anybody) into Ghouta. I am saving the very
problematic Premise I
for Part 3 in this series, when I will deconstruct the myth that the victims in Ghouta were killed by
A few intro comments on nomenclature and the Syrian-CurveBalls
As discussed in Part 1, Seymour Hersh has kicked some serious butt with respect to debunking Obama's false
meme that only Assad's people had access to sarin and only they had the
know-how to weaponize it. But Hersh doesn't get into the rocket issues, per
se. For instance, he doesn't express any doubts that there were
sarin-rockets; he only questions who had the sarin. However, this rockets issue is important because merely concluding that the terrorists had, or
may well have had, sarin doesn't logically or necessarily mean that the terrorists, not Assad,
deployed the sarin. But if the evidence shows that sarin-rockets
were used, and those rockets were of a type known to be used by the SAA,
and if they came from the direction of SAA positions . . . well, if that's
what the evidence really says, then get the noose ready.
And the reason I say it is because, basically, what we're dealing with here
is a bunch of nasty Syrians on both sides of an ugly fight. If both sides have sarin,
then it's probably not going to be possible to deduce who used it merely
by comparing the moral characters of the two sides. But if there is strong
evidence that the sarin was deployed by rockets or other military
munitions as opposed to, say, being sprayed from a fertilizer sprayer,
then an argument for Assad's guilt becomes tenable. And
his guilt becomes virtually a certainty if one can show that the rockets
came from places occupied and controlled exclusively by Assad's SAA, and this is what the anti-Assad crowd,
including Obama, Kerry, and Hagel, has tried to show.
Let me be more specific. For reasons I won't go into here, this
entire issue of rockets has been reduced to a very particular type of rocket that was
designed to carry a heavy payload a short distance. A diagram of
this rocket is shown in Fig. 1, above. The figure is derived from a
report published by the UN about three weeks after the Ghouta
Massacre. The UN
Report's lead author was Ake Sellstrom, who
led a fact-finding mission of UN/OPCW investigators into Ghouta on
Aug26, 28, 29|2013. This particular rocket type is most frequently referred to as
"a 330mm rocket," which is supposed to be the diameter of the
warhead, although the UN Report gives that diameter as
both 360mm (14in) (see pg. 21) and 330mm (13in) (see pg. 23).
If this warhead was loaded with sarin it would amount to more than 50 liters,
which is a lot when you consider that it's one of the most potent toxins
known. For the
purposes of this post, I will employ the UN tag of "330mm
rocket" when referring to the munition in Fig. 1. [The UN report
also takes note of a much smaller rocket that is only
140mm (5.5in) in diameter. This 140mm rocket has played a very, very minor
role in the analysis of the Ghouta Massacre, presumably because: 1) it is so
small that it could not have carried enough sarin to have contributed
substantially to the massacre, and 2) it is such a common munition that it
could have been used by either side and therefore it has no
One of the many points of confusion with respect to the alleged Ghouta
sarin-rockets is that the Internet has been flooded with all sorts of videos and
photos of rockets alleged to have carried sarin into Ghouta. Most of
this was bunk, as I am about to show, and when it comes to bunk about the Syrian civil
war being disseminated on the Internet,
to think first of Eliot Higgins who has been universally misidentified as a weapons "expert" by an incredibly
gullible MSM, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the
Guaridian, and The New Yorker. Higgins is not a weapons expert,
rather he is a minimally-educated (some business courses) online gamer
turned ubiquitous British sofa-blogger. Higgins has gone by various names such as "Brown
Moses" and "Bellingcat." He is married to a Turk and,
probably not coincidently, he has been one of the primary Assad
antagonists trying -- rather successfully -- to sell the world a false-flag
on these rockets. Higgins is a paragon and prime
representative of a group of anti-Assad war hawks I refer to as
I bring Higgins up here because of the way he has muddied the waters with his rocket-nomenclature in which he refers to a wide variety of rockets, including the
330mm rocket, as "Volcano
rockets." If you follow his
blogging, you will see that Higgins applies the term "Volcano"
to all sorts of rockets that he claims are used by the SAA. It looks like Higgins misappropriated that name from a much, much larger Hezbollah
rocket that has nothing to do with Ghouta. Of course, because
Hezbollah is connected to Assad, every instance in which a rocket is
referred to as "Volcano" is a tacit accusation that the rocket
is also connected to Assad. It's an example of how much
propaganda is carried out by means of tacit inference based on unproven but presumed facts.
As soon as the Ghouta videos were uploaded to YT, anti-Assad/pro-terrorist,
second-generation CurveBalls like Higgins, Dan
Kaszeta, and Rami Abdulrahman (Syrian
Observatory on Human Rights) started baiting MSM/NGO writers like
C.J. Chivers (New York Times),
Josh Lyons (Human Rights Watch), Max Fisher (Washington Post).
And the press took the bait because they needed stories and had no
contacts of their own inside Syria. And so the press started feeding the world
unsubstantiated Syria-CurveBall garbage about
how many sarin-loaded rockets Assad fired at Ghouta, what kind of rockets
they were, where they came from, where they landed, the volume of the payloads, &etc, &etc.
. . It was like a decade after the Iraq War debacle the public forgot all
about the NYT's Judith Miller and Michael Gordon and
how totally goofed up and
dangerously inept reporters can
be. Everything the
public should have learned from the run-up to the Iraq War about hooks, lines, and sinkers was disregarded
a decade later when the NYT and the rest
of the MSM started helping Obama, Kerry, and Hagel make an unwarranted case for attacking Assad.
The sarin-rocket story that the Syria-CurveBalls sold the MSM and that
the MSM sold the public was based on
photos and videos initially popularized by Higgins showing "Volcano sarin-rockets" stuck in the ground, or rocket-parts lying on the ground in the
Ghouta area. Oddly, although these were supposed to be "sarin-rockets,"
in a lot of Higgins' photos and videos the terrorists are seen physically inspecting and handling the purportedly deadly
rockets -- absolutely no CW protection, not so much as a pair of
rubber gloves. In other photos the "sarin rockets" are --
incredibly -- shown displayed in people's bedrooms and patios, like Kewpie
dolls brought home from a county fair. In
one video dozens of terrorists
are actually dancing in a street and passing one of these twisted, spent
around. In none of these photos/videos does anybody appear any the worse for wear, and they are certainly not
suffering from sarin intoxication.
And the reason I point this out is that sarin is one of the most potent
and brutal toxins known. A single drop absorbed through the skin is all it takes
to produce a ghastly death. It is volatile enough that on a warm day
-- like Damascus in late August -- it can transform from a liquid into a deadly vapor. And
yet here we had tons of images uploaded to the Internet within a few hours or days of the
Ghouta Massacre showing the terrorists virtually fondling the "sarin rockets."
Instead of employing a little healthy skepticism
and asking how one could tell from a bunch of photos/videos uploaded by
anti-Assad terrorists that the rockets ever carried
sarin, all of the Syria-CurveBalls and their MSM mouthpieces blindly accepted
and re-tweeted the
sarin-rockets assertion. In fact, the rockets being inspected at close quarters and handled by the
terrorists is pretty good evidence that the rockets had no toxic
substances on them, certainly not sarin, and the terrorists in the images
Peripatetic rocket Z-197
For instance, the 330mm rocket in the four photos comprising Fig. 2, below,
is one of two viral rockets that play heavily in
the CurveBalls' accusations that Assad fired sarin-rockets into Ghouta.
This is supposed to be one of those sarin-rockets. It is a 330mm
rocket, marked with a bright red number "197." The rocket has been geolocated to
a spot near the village of Zamalka, which is why I call this specific rocket
"Z-197." It is probably
the most photographed rocket in the whole Ghouta story, and, it turns out,
one of the most mysterious.
The four images below show Z-197 photographed from different angles while in the same hole
with the same terrorists standing around taking selfies with it. These photos are all found
on Higgins' Imgur page. They
are not dated on that page, but with a little sniffing around I found that
they came from videos uploaded as early Aug21|13, the
day after the Ghouta Massacre. One must either admire the temerity
or abhor the stupidity of a group of guys standing around a sarin-rocket
mugging for the camera with no gas-masks, no gloves, no protective
suits. Selfies in extremis.
Fig 2. Pointer Rocketotected anti-Assad terrorists
inspect Higgins' "sarin-rockets" close up
GoogleEarth guru Felim McMahon did a great job geolocating
the hole rocket Z-197 was sticking out of. The spot is 33° 31.247' N 36° 21.442' E
. It's SW of Zamalka and NE of Ein Tarma. On Aug24|13, just
three days after the massacre, GoogleEarth's satellite took a photo of that
spot -- it's labeled ("A") in Fig. 3, below. Given that the sun was in the southern
sky, the satellite photo must have been snapped in the late morning -- the
building's shadows are short and pointed very slightly to the west; the
west sides of the buildings are still in shadow.
3. GoogleEarth photo,
late morning of Aug24|2013.
Z-197 impact site is marked "A".
In all of the photos in Fig. 1 except the
one in the upper left, the rocket is pointing south toward the adjacent
building. In that fourth photo the rocket is pointing north, away
from the building. Here
is a video of the same
rocket taken when the rocket was pointing north. This vid provides a
clear look at the area surrounding Z-197. Judging from the short
shadows pointing east, the vid was taken shortly after noon. It's YT
upload date is Aug22|13. (YouTube time is Pacific time, which is 10
hours behind Damascus.)
Obviously, these guys were messing around
with this rocket. In fact, on Aug25|13 Mr. Resho Bistuyek posted on his blog an analysis of
the photos in Fig. 2,
which analysis demonstrates quite conclusively that these photos of Z-197 were taken in the morning and that the rocket was
first pointing south but later repositioned so that it pointed north, even
while the photos were being taken. I mean, these guys in the photos
are clearly tampering with "evidence," which, for all they
knew, was covered with sarin, at least according to the sarin-rocket
yada the entire world was hearing at the time. But it's also quite
possible, for all we know, that these guys dug the hole
and planted the bent rocket themselves before the photo-op began. And
therein lies the main point of the present post.
As I say, judging from the shadows, the satellite photo in
Fig. 3 was taken very late in the morning on Aug24|13, which would have
been two or three days after the photos in Fig. 2 were taken. The interesting thing is
this: no matter how closely you zoom in on the satellite photo, you can't see any sign of the
rocket or the hole. We might just write that off to limited
resolution of the satellite photo and to details buried
in the shadows except that there are a couple of other images taken after
the morning of Aug22
in which Z-197 is missing. Figure 4, below, is by Reuters' Bassam
Khabieh, one of the terrorists' most prolific photographers. It was
published in the Christian
Monitor and Daily
Mail on Aug23|13. Note that Z-197 is gone.
Photo of Z-197 impact site taken by Bassam Khabieh
in the early morning of (most likely) Aug23|2013.
The far left upper corner of the building and the structure in the left
background are bathed in bright pinkish sunlight. We know from the
GE photos that they lie to the east. The
west face of the building on the right of the photo is in shadow.
This tells us that this photo was taken early in the morning. And
here is a corroborating video
that shows the building, the hole, and some of the twisted metal, but
there is no Z-197. This video was taken about noon and has an upload date of Aug22|13,
which means the video had to have been taken about noon of either Aug21 or
Aug22, assuming the rocket landed in the early morning of Aug21. The missing rocket is suspicious, but not the most suspicious part of
this "sarin-rocket" story. But before we move on let me quickly recap what we know
about the timeline for Z-197.
The earliest images we have of Z-197
are morning shots shown in Fig. 2, which were taken from videos uploaded on Aug22|13 YouTube (Pacific)
time. They had to be uploaded between 10 AM Aug22 and 10 AM
Aug23 Damascus time to get the Aug22|13 YT timestamp. Taking a video
in the late morning of Aug23 and uploading it before 10 AM seems very
unlikely; hence, I believe we can conclude that the earliest views of
Z-197 were taken on the morning of Aug21 or 22. And there
are numerous other videos with the Aug22|13 upload date that show Z-197 in
the hole in Zamalka (but pointing in different directions).
Then there is the noon-ish video of Z-197 that was uploaded on Aug22
and there is Khabieh's photo (Fig. 4.) that was a morning shot and
published on Aug23|13, both of which show the Z-197
hole but with no Z-197. So it appears that Z-197 was
removed from the hole no later than noon-ish on Aug22|13 local time, the day after the massacre.
The point is this: the video/photo evidence tells us that Z-197 was gone
six days before the UN/OPCW team arrived on Aug28.
The UN's Pointer Rocket hoax
There is another viral 330mm rocket that was stuck in the ground in the vicinity of where Z-197 was
photographed -- I call this one the UN "Pointer Rocket."
It was only 450 feet to the west of where Z-197 was videoed, and so you'd think that on the
morning of Aug22|13 when the terrorists were taking selfies around Z-197 they would
have walked to the next lot over and taken a few selfies with the Pointer Rocket,
too. But it didn't happen, at least as far as I have been able to
determine. Although there are many, many photos of the Pointer Rocket, I cannot
find any taken prior to Aug28|13, which was the date the UN/OPCW investigation team appeared on the scene.
In fact, the only
images I have ever found of the Pointer Rocket are those in which the UN/OPCW guys are
standing around it and taking samples. Fig. 5, below, is one example
of these ubiquitous photos. This shot appeared in a NYT article
[link fixed Apr08|17] by Mr.
dated Sep17|13 and titled U.N. Data on Gas Attack Point to Assad's Top
Forces. By "Point" the title is tacitly referring to the
direction that rocket is tilted.
Fig. 5. A screen-grab that
NYT article took from
a terrorist's video of UN/OPCW guy investigating
suspect rocket stuck in the ground pointing at Assad.
For those following the Ghouta Massacre, this photo will
be very familiar because this scene was photographed and videographed
countless times by the terrorists and uploaded to YouTube. The OPCW
then borrowed some of those YT's, smudged out the terrorists' logos and
produced a PR video showing the
UN/OPCW investigators at work in this spot between Zamalka and Ein Tarma,
Ghouta. It is worth noting that these videos were all taken on Aug28|13 -- seven days after the alleged sarin
attack -- and yet the UN/OPCW guys are protected with gas-masks and rubber
gloves, a testimony to the potential dangers of residual sarin. Fig. 6 is another view of these investigators showing more
detail of the site.
A wider view of the Pointer Rocket impact site being
investigated by UN/OPCW guys on Aug28|13.
Figure 7, below, is an expanded version of the Aug24|13 GoogleEarth satellite shot
shown in Fig. 3. This view shows the relationship between these two rockets' "impact sites."
"A" is, as above, where Z-197 was photographed.
"B" is where the Pointer Rocket was photographed -- embedded in that wall you
can see just below the "B" label. The straight-line
distance between the two points is barely 400 feet -- an 8-iron for an
intermediate amateur golfer with a light tail wind; a 3-wood for me.
GoogleEarth photo of Aug23|2013
"impact sites" for Z-197 ("A") and the UN Pointer Rocket ("B")
And so you may find it as curious as I do that the terrorists, who were
making such a fuss about Z-197 on Aug22, ignored the Pointer Rocket right next
door until the UN/OPCW boys showed up six days later. But the
reciprocal situation is just as nutty. On Aug28|13 when the UN/POCW team
was carefully investigating the Pointer Rocket, they completely ignored Z-197, which
was right next door in the other direction. As far as I can tell upon
reading the UN Report multiple times, these guys never mention
Z-197. I mean, they flew all the
way down from Geneva, they had their gas-masks and sampling gear and they
were trying their damndest to find sarin, and yet they completely
ignored a 330mm rocket and impact site just 400 feet away that had gone
viral long before they arrived in the area. Too
What this tells us is not that the UN/OPCW guys were lazy, or inept, or
as blind as the home-plate ump with Casey at the bat. What it tells us is
that Z-197 was gone days before the UN/OPCW
showed up, as I demonstrated above. I
mean, ya' can't investigate what ain't there. And the most likely reason they
didn't take dirt samples from the Z-197 impact site was that the terrorists
were in charge of where the investigators went and what they saw -- simply
didn't show them
the Z-197 site. And so the impact site of the most widely photographed "sarin-rocket"
of all -- Z-197 -- was virtually right next to the Pointer Rocket and yet
it was never inspected by the UN/POCW and is not mentioned
in the UN Report. Too crazy.
Let me just pin these crazy facts to the timeline (with a few harsh words on the side to
The UN/OPCW team were sound asleep in a hotel in Damascus
on the night of Aug20-21|2013 when the Ghouta Massacre happened. They were in
the invitation of Assad, enroute to the northern part of the
country where they were going to investigate allegations that the
terrorists had used . . . wait for it . . . sarin on SAA troops. And
it just so happens that (according to Obama, Kerry, Hagel and Eliot
Higgins and the other Syria-CurveBalls) Assad picked that very night to
drop sarin on Ghouta a couple miles away from where the UN/OPCW team were fast
asleep. I have seen no record that any of the UN/OPCW people heard anything,
saw anything, or knew anything about this horrible event until the next
morning. They probably had their windows closed.
So the Ghouta Massacre not only canceled the lives of hundreds of
people, it very effectively canceled the UN/OPCW team's plan to
investigate the terrorists' use of sarin in northern Syria. Instead they gathered up
their gear in a bunch of white UN SUVs and headed into Ghouta to see if they
could find sarin there. Only they waited for five days -- until Monday, Aug26|13
-- when they first went south to inspect Moadanyeh (also spelled "Moadamiyah").
Then they took Tuesday, Aug27 off for some much deserved down-time after
working five hours on Monday.
On Wednesday Aug28 they finally drove to Zamalka where one team investigated a 330mm
rocket that landed on a roof and a second team sampled the Pointer Rocket
while being heavily guarded and photographed by the
Three weeks later, Sep13|13, the samples had been analyzed and the UN/OPCW
head guy, Ake Sellstrom, sent the UN his report on
what they found in Ghouta. As one who has spent 15 years of his
career reading countless scientific papers and who has written a fair few of
my own, and as one who has spent another 15 years of his career as a lawyer
reading and writing countless legal documents, I have a pretty fair feel for what
a document setting forth technical/scientific evidence should sound like and what it should say. To
be honest but blunt, I found the UN
Report to be as helpful as pigeon poop on the pump handle, which is what I
titled my Oct11|13 critique of
the Report. For instance, the way the UN Report neglects to identify
the location of rockets, or to number the rockets they sampled, or to even
say clearly which specific rockets had signs of sarin and which did not is, in
my professional opinion, either an appalling display of professional negligence or
In fact, it is fair to say that not a single rocket reported in the UN
Report can be unambiguously referred to as a "sarin-rocket."
Consequently, even ignoring for the moment the whole problem of failed
chain of custody of the evidence prior to the time the investigators
reached the rockets, there is no unambiguous evidence in the UN Report
that supports its
conclusion that surface-to-surface rockets containing sarin were used in
Ghouta. Let me use the Pointer Rocket as an example of why I have my
knickers in such a twist over this.
The twisted knickers analysis
Appendix 5 of the UN Report begins on page 18. It is titled: Munitions
recovered in Moadamiyah and Zamalka/Ein Tarma. On page 18 Sellstrom
describes a "rocket motor" the team was shown on the floor of a
terrace of an apartment building in Moadamiyah, which is south of Damascus
and which the team visited on Aug26. The warhead was not present. The rocket fragment
they examined was
140mm in diameter and 630mm long, consistent with the M14 artillery
rocket. It was the only munition the team
disclosed as having been investigated in Moadamiyah.
On page 19 of the Report a section begins that is titled: Observations
and assessments from the Zamalka/Ein Tarma findings. Here
Sellstrom describes how the team split up and one half investigated a
munition on the roof of a 5-story building while the other half
investigated a munition in a nearby "open field." No
attempt is made to reveal where, precisely, these munitions were.
"Zamalka/Ein Tarma" is as precise as Sellstrom gets. Well,
Zamalka is about a mile away from Ein Tarma and the aggregate area of both towns
is close to 2 square miles and includes thousands of buildings. So
just saying "Zamalka/Ein Tarma" smells like someone trying to
hide something from a world that has access to satellite photos of
Sellstrom tells us that the two munitions found in Zamalka/Ein Tarma were of the same type and he
then describes them as if they were one. What he describes is
a 330mm rocket, one (he doesn't say which) having a red number "153" painted on
it. He then goes into detail on the dimensions of the various
components of the rocket.
In spite of Sellstrom's lack of transparency regarding the location of
the rockets found in the Zamalka/Ein Tarma area, it was possible to
geolocate one of them because the UN Report itself included a photograph of it
sticking in the ground (Fig.8) and that image matches exactly
the 330mm rocket shown in a plethora of videos of the UN/OPCW team (see Figs. 5
& 6, above). So, sharp-eyed citizen investigators like Mr. McMahon were
able to geolocate this rocket as described above. It is the Pointer Rocket,
stuck in the ground at precisely 33° 31.227' N 36° 21.358' E .
. 8 Closer view of
the Pointer Rocket in situ
Beginning on page 22 of the UN Report Sellstrom describes a rocket impact
site in Ein Tarma from which he claimed a bearing could be taken showing what
direction it came from. This rocket, according to Sellstrom, landed
in soft ground without being bent and "remained dug in, undisturbed
Since the Report describes only two rockets in the Ein Tarma area and
one landed on a roof, the rocket Sellstrom is using to derive a bearing
has to be the Pointer Rocket shown in Fig. 8. And -- I know you're not going
to believe this -- that rocket points right at Assad's army. And that's exactly what the
like Higgins, Chivers, and Lyons were waiting for. Almost
immediately they all published articles claiming that Sellstrom's Pointer
Rocket was pointing directly at Assad's army encamped on Mount Qasioun, 8
km away, "well within
range of most rocket systems," according to Lyons.
It was shocking, damning evidence that Assad was responsible for the
Ghouta Massacre, and one has the impression that is precisely what
Sellstrom intended it to be. Although the UN Report does not explicitly say "Assad fired sarin
rockets into Ghouta," the accusation could not have been any clearer.
The day the UN Report was published, the Syrian-CurveBalls immediately wet
their panties in joy and started
screaming to the world what Sellstrom whispered implicitly: The SAA on Mt.
Qasioun fired sarin-rockets into Ghouta. But that story was not just
false, it was fabricated. A hoax. If we look at a couple of details,
you'll understand why I say
1. The "undisturbed until investigated" assertion
Above I quoted the UN Report's description of the Pointer Rocket as being ".
. . dug in, undisturbed until investigated." That
assertion was almost certainly an intentional misrepresentation of the
facts, and the reason I say it is
that the UN/OPCW people couldn't have known when the Pointer Rocket hit that spot, assuming
for the moment that it did "hit" the spot. As far as they
knew, it could have been
stuck in the ground like that for days, or weeks, or months before the
Ghouta Massacre, and so how could anyone know it had been undisturbed
until investigated? The "undisturbed until investigated" assertion is troublesome because
by its very presence it suggests a chain of custody that Sellstrom knows
did not exist. The UN Report is a hoax.
For how could Sellstrom know that the rocket had not been disturbed?
The UN/OPCW people never entered the area or saw that rocket until a week after the massacre.
I do not believe there are any images of it online prior to the UN/OPCW
investigation. The only way
I can think of that any investigator could truthfully assert that the
rocket had been "undisturbed until investigated" would be if it had been guarded
24/7/365 or had
been under CCTV, satellite, or drone surveillance. There is absolutely
no evidence or assertion of either.
Undisturbed? We know these terrorists were jerking around with
these 330mm rockets. I have shown above how rocket Z-197, just 400 feet away, was tampered
with and actually removed from the scene, and yet it became one of the
main pieces of visual evidence supporting the meme that Assad's people
fired sarin-rockets into Ghouta. There is no way to know how Z-197 came to be where it was photographed, just as there is no way to
know how the Pointer Rocket came to be in its location. Anyone could
have dug holes and planted either one of them or both of them. As simple-minded and as obvious as this criticism is, it is powerful
because it destroys the Syria-CurveBalls'
conclusion that the Pointer Rocket was fired
by Assad's people, and yet the UN Report completely ignores this obvious,
fatal flaw. Sellstrom's problem is that every single piece of the evidence he
collected and analyzed is affected by this criticism, and, consequently, the
entire UN Report is tainted.
If you look at the wide-angle satellite view of the area in Fig.
7, you will not see any evidence of either impact sites or the rockets,
and yet the photo was taken just three days after the massacre. What
you will see is a white vehicle midway between the two impact sites, and
Here we are looking down on that scene three days after what may have been
the most deadly sarin attack ever. It is an area that is
otherwise deserted, an area that Sellstrom says was attacked with sarin,
an area that could still be affected by the deadly toxin. You have
to wonder what that white vehicle is doing there. Maybe they are not
worried about wafting sarin; maybe they know there isn't any. If we could look
inside that vehicle, it would not surprise me in the least if we would see
a spent 330mm rocket, a shovel, a compass, a spray bottle of sarin sealed inside
a thick baggie, and a couple of these anti-Assad terrorists with gas-masks
and rubber gloves discussing who's going to dig the hole and who's going
to spray the sarin. Who knows what was going on in that open field before
the UN/OPCW showed up? Sellstrom certainly doesn't.
2. Range & bearing
The UN Report was absolutely instrumental and totally responsible for
the world's conclusion that the Pointer Rocket was fired from a position
occupied by Assad's army. The Report did not say that explicitly,
but having published the "bearing" of the rocket and having
ignored any possibility that the rocket was planted or otherwise tampered
with was tantamount to an accusation. On cue, the Syria-CurveBalls jumped right in and
described that rocket as a
finger pointing at Assad. And yet, even if we assume, arguendo,
that the Pointer Rocket was actually fired into that wall in Zamalka/Ein
Tarma, and even if we assume that the UN/OPCW measured the bearing
accurately, the facts still do not add up to reasonably sound evidence of
Here are the factual allegations from the UN Report, verbatim:
Impact site number 1 (Moadamiyah) and Impact site number 4 (Ein
Tarma) provide sufficient evidence to determine, with sufficient
degree of accuracy, the likely trajectory of the projectiles. -- Pg.
~ ~ ~
Impact Site Number 4
The munition related to this impact site by observed and measured
characteristics indicatively matches a 330mm caliber, artillery
rocket. The projectile, in the last stage of its trajectory, hit
the surface in an area of earthy, relatively soft, ground where the
shaft/engine of the projectile remained dug in, undisturbed until
The said shaft/engine, presenting no form of lateral bending, pointed
precisely in a bearing of 285 degrees that, again, represent [sic] a
reverse azimuth to the trajectory followed by the rocket during its
flight. It can be, thus, concluded that the original azimuth of
the rocket trajectory had an azimuth of 105 degrees, in an
East/Southeast trajectory. -- Pg. 23 [Bold original]
I am not sure what it means that "the original azimuth" had
"an azimuth," but the passage is clear nevertheless: the rocket
was pointing in the direction of 285 degrees. As noted above, by a process of elimination the Impact Site Number 4
has to be the Pointer Rocket because the only other rocket investigated in
Zamalka/Ein Tarma landed on a roof.
Within a day of Sellstrom's report becoming public, Syrian
war-hawk writers like Fisher (WaPo), Chivers (NYT), and Lyons (HRW)
inter-linked articles describing how the UN was tacitly pointing the finger at
Assad. These hawks' own "analysis" of the UN rocket trajectory/bearing data indicated that
the Pointer Rocket was fired from -- you guessed it -- SAA positions. More
specifically, they claimed the rocket came from Mt. Qasioun, which is a SAA stronghold about
8 km west of Ghouta. As Chivers put
it, the sarin-rockets
. which sailed over central Damascus and landed in civilian neighborhoods,
originated 'from the direction of the Republican Guard 104th Brigade,'
which occupies a large base on the mountain’s western side."
And then, with a little push
from Higgins, the entire MSM flew into a right-rage with down-to-the-millimeter
comparisons of Assad's rockets with the rockets the UN found in Ghouta --
all without anyone raising the obvious point that the SAA had been firing
330mm rockets into Ghouta every day since the terrorists took it over a year earlier,
but none of those previous rockets contained sarin. Incredible as it seems, I cannot
find an example of a single reporter or politician asking the obvious: How
do we know the rockets the terrorists showed the UN/OPCW teams weren't dud
high-explosives rockets that were planted and
sprayed with sarin or sarin-signature compounds?
It was not until four months after the UN Report came out that rocket
experts stood up and said "Hold on a second. Something's not
right." Richard Lloyd, a rocket-specialist and former UN weapons
inspector, and Theodore Postol, a highly respected physicist and rocket-scientist at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
eventually showed that all of the yabber about the Pointer Rocket coming
from the SAA was all just that -- yabber.
On Jan14|2014 Lloyd and Postol published a sort of online Power
Point presentation in which
they indicated graphically that the aerodynamic qualities and limitations of a
330mm rocket of
the type Higgins, the UN, and the MSM were going nutto about. Lloyd
and Postol showed that the 330mm rocket discussed in the UN/OPCW
report and shown in videos and photos hawked
by Higgins -- the Pointer Rocket -- was not a "Volcano" rocket
at all but a modified version of a GRAD rocket, which is widely
used and easily obtained in the Middle East. Anyone with a primitive
machine-shop could have welded a 330mm wide, 50 liter tank onto a GRAD rocket and it
would be exactly what the UN Report was showing.
So, Lloyd and Postol's
first point was that anybody could have produced the 330mm rocket.
Lloyd and Postol failed to point out that the SAA used such modified
rockets prior to Ghouta to bomb the terrorists with high explosives, and
not all of them blew up. Hence such spent rockets were lying all
around Syria and were easily obtainable by, say, terrorists
wanting to set up a false flag operation without going to the trouble of
actually making their own 330mm rockets.
The second point Lloyd and Postol made was that once it was produced, the
rocket was a dodo, aerodynamically speaking. Whilst an unmodified GRAD has a range
of about 20 km, by converting a GARD into a 330mm rocket and loading it with 50 liters of sarin,
the rocket could not fly any farther than
about 2 km. Here is their killer-graphic.
Fig. 9. Diagram from pg. 33 of the Lloyd and Postal study
The red arc represents the calculated trajectory and
range of an unmodified GARD. The wee black arc in the lower left corner represents the
trajectory and range of a 330mm rocket of the type the Syria-CurveBalls
claimed was filled with sarin and fired into Ghouta from Mt.
Qasioun, about 8 km away. That is pitiful. That rocket could
barely reach Disneyland's It's a Small World ride if it was fired from the main gate.
Using USG maps and published intel Lloyd and Postol also made it very clear
that the only people within 2 km of where the
rockets were supposed to have landed were the terrorists. Assad's
SAA was certainly too far away to have hit Ghouta with the 330mm "sarin-rocket."
Higgins, Fisher, Chivers, and Lyons, who claimed the Pointer Rocket came from Mt. Qasioun, suddenly looked
like they were shills for interests who were trying to jack up a war with Syria: al-Nusra,
Turkey, and Ysrael.
But the CurveBalls didn't give up easily. Higgins flipped his story
once it was clear that his allegations about the Pointer Rocket being
fired from Mt. Qasioun could not possibly be correct. On Apr22|2014
he and fellow-CurveBall Dan Kaszeta were given a guest-contributor spot by
which they used to attack the Lloyd/Postol conclusions. OK,
said the CurveBalls, maybe Mt. Qasioun is too far away for a 330mm rocket,
but we have evidence that at the time of the Ghouta Massacre the SAA was
carrying out operations in al-Qaboun just 2 km away from the Pointer
Rocket impact site.
Unfortunately, what Higgins and Kaszeta completely ignored in their
rejoinder to Lloyd and Postol was the direction the UN Report said the rockets came from --
285 degree bearing of the Pointer Rocket. While al-Qaboun might be
barely within range of the Pointer Rocket, it is in the wrong direction! Let's go
back to Google Earth:
Google Earth view showing how far off
Higgins and Kaszeta's revised story was worse than their original
Fig. 10 shows a satellite photo of the Pointer Rocket's
position, labeled, "B," as before. That yellow pointer at the
top of the photo is the precise location in al-Qaboun where Higgins and Kaszeta claim the SAA
were operating on Aug21|2013. That point is 2.7 km away from the Pointer
Rocket at a bearing of 337 degrees.
The red line marks a bearing from the Pointer Rocket of 285
degrees and it extends precisely 2 km -- IOW, the red line indicates the range
of the 330mm rocket as determined by Lloyd and Postol and the bearing of the
Pointer Rocket as
determined by the UN/OPCW. That 2 km line ends in a place called Jobar, which
was held by anti-Assad terrorists long before the Ghouta Massacre, during the Ghouta
Massacre, and even now. All of the territory along that line was held by
terrorists as of Aug21|13. And as for Chivers' assertion that Assad's
sarin-rockets "sailed over central Damascus," well, central Damascus
is more than 4 km to the west and south of where that red line ends in Jobar.
Chivers is spinning dramatic but untruthful facts much like his predecessors
Judith Miller and Michael Gordon did a decade before him.
What the range and bearing data tell us is that if we assume (once again, for the sake of argument) that the
Pointer Rocket was fired and not planted, then it had to have been fired by the
terrorists and not by the SAA. The Higgins/Kaszeta modified theory about the Pointer Rocket
coming from al-Qaboun might have been in the right ball-park as far as range
goes but it was nowhere near the right direction. Chivers' "sailed
over central Damascus" assertion was more of the insufferable,
war-mongering bullshit people are coming to expect from the New York Times. Given the direction and the
range, Assad's people could not
have fired the Pointer Rocket on Aug21|13, if it was, in fact, fired by anyone
Premise II: The bottom line
Here's the bottom line with respect to Obama's Premise II: It wouldn't hold up in a
court of law. It's a sorry piece of inflammatory propaganda that not even Judge
Judy would admit into court.
Two years down the road, more evidence disputes Obama's assertion
that only Assad had sarin than supports it. And as for the rockets
that were supposed to have been fired by Assad's SAA over central
Damascus in Chivers' words -- well, spent 330mm rockets were
lying all over Syria and any goof-ball with a used shovel or hoe could have dug a hole and stuck
one in it. But the dumbest part of Obama's Premise II is that the
range of those 330mm rockets is so short that to reach the places where they were
photographed, they would have had to have been fired from areas controlled
by the terrorists.
When Obama articulated Premise II, he was probably being fed false
intelligence by at least one trusted ally who was trying to sucker him into
going to war in Syria. The way Obama's relationship with Bibi Netanyahu
and the Government of Ysrael (GoY) has gone straight into the toilet since
August, 2013 suggest to me who that duplicitous ally was. The world should be eternally grateful that
Obama realized at the last moment that something didn't smell
But I find it really curious and very unfortunate that the UN/OPCW people had
absolutely no sense of smell at all. Not a shred of skepticism. Common sense
would tell one that any wahhabi twerp with a
beard, a shovel, and a compass could dig a hole in the ground, stick a spent
330mm rocket in it, and tip the rocket in the right direction so it looked like it came from
the SAA. How could these UN/OPCW people be so credulous as to agree
to partake in an investigation in which the terrorists were in charge of where the investigators
went and what they saw, which was, of
course, a 330mm rocket stuck in the ground pointing toward Assad's army.
~ ~ ~
In Part 3 of this series I will deconstruct the Sarin Myth, which is Obama's
Premise I: that hundreds of people in Ghouta were killed by the neurotoxin sarin.
--- Denis O'Brien, PhD/Esq.
Apr08|2017 -- I am grateful to J. Lee for pointing out some
botched text and broken links that required attention.