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"--takin' the BS outa' the (B)logo(S)phere (and the MSM) one shovel-full at a time "

 

 

~ January 14, 2016 ~
Apr08|17 - Fig numbers, text errors, and links checked/repaired ~ h/t to J. Lee

Deconstructing Obama's false 
Syrian sarin syllogism

 "For those who have not been following the debate, and perhaps rely on the mass media for their information, there is little consensus on whether the attack on Ghouta was a rocket attack, little consensus on who fired the rockets (if they were fired), a belief that the crime scenes investigated by the UN may have been tampered with (as the UN indicated in their report) or even faked and so there is no credibility in the widely distributed map of the alleged rocket trajectories. Perhaps most importantly, there is no consensus over the number of victims or even how they died."  
                                                                       --   
Human Rights Investigations    

Part 2 of 3 -- "Assad's sarin-rockets" hoax

Denis O'Brien, PhD

Part 1 -- Sourcing the sarin 

Part 3 -- "Premise I and the Sarin Myth"

 


Fig. 1. Diagram of so-called "sarin rocket" 
from UN 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, and for 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 yada, likely 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.     

Here's Obama's let's-bomb-Assad syllogism, which serves as the focal point of this three-part series: 

  • 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;
      
  • Conclusion
    Therefore, only Assad's military could have been responsible for the Ghouta Massacre. 

 QED: Assad "gassed his own people."

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 sarin-loaded 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 sarin.

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 finger-pointing value.]  

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, I tend 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 "Syria-CurveBalls."  

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 330mm rockets 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 knew that.   

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.

North

South

Fig 3GoogleEarth 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 Science Monitor and Daily Mail on Aug23|13.  Note that  Z-197 is gone.  

 East    West

Fig 4.  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. Chivers, 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 Chivers' 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.


Fig. 6A 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.  

North

   

South

Fig 7.  GoogleEarth photo of Aug23|2013 showing the 
"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 crazy.  

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 -- who 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).

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 Syria at 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 terrorists.  

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 intentional obfuscation.  

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 everywhere. 

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 .  

  
Fig
. 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 until investigated."

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 Syria-CurveBalls 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 that.

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 Syria-CurveBalls' 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 that's interesting.  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 Assad's guilt.  

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. 22

~ ~ ~

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 investigated.

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) started publishing 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 330mm 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, Da'esh, 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 the Guardian, 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 -- i.e., the 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:


Fig.
10 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 right. 

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.
denis-ampersand-logophere-fullstop-com

Apr08|2017 -- I am grateful to J. Lee for pointing out some botched text and broken links that required attention. 

 

 

 

Copyright, Denis O'Brien, 2005-2016 ~ ~ All rights reserved.