This past weekend saw two more major blows to the years-long establishment narrative of the Syrian war in general and the chemical weapons attacks allegations against the Assad government in particular.
First, Tareq Haddad, an accomplished British journalist who began working for Newsweek earlier this year, resigned last week, telling his Twitter followers that he had done so as the result of his editors attempting to block him from accurate reporting on the Syria war and the OPCW whistleblowers. He also said that in the coming days he would be sharing a write-up on what had happened, despite threats of legal action by Newsweek:
Yesterday I resigned from Newsweek after my attempts to publish newsworthy revelations about the leaked OPCW letter were refused for no valid reason.
I have collected evidence of how they suppressed the story in addition to evidence from another case where info inconvenient to US govt was removed, though it was factually correct.
I plan on publishing these details in full shortly. However, after asking my editors for comment, as is journalistic practice, I received an email reminding me of confidentiality clauses in my contract. I.e. I was threatened with legal action.
I am seeking legal advice on how to proceed and whether I may be entitled to some type of whistleblower protection due to possibly fraudulent behaviour. At very least, I will publish the evidence I have without divulging the confidential information.
On Saturday, he published his in-depth account of his time at Newsweek and how the editing process worked, particularly on certain types of stories. This sets the stage for the blocking of his attempts to report on the latest events regarding the whistleblowers who exposed the fraudulent final report of the OPCW on the 2018 chemical weapons attack in Douma.
(Note: Haddad has stated that anyone is free to reprint his piece).
I highly recommend reading the full article, but will excerpt some sections pertaining to the inner workings of Newsweek and how it fits into the “manufacturing of consent” paradigm that we’ve all known or suspected for a long time:
There is also another, deeper force that compels me to write. In my years since that moment when I decided to become a journalist and a writer, although I suspect I have known it intrinsically long before, I have come to learn that truth is also the most fundamental pillar of this modern society we so often take for granted—a realisation that did not come to us easily and one that we should be extremely careful to neglect. That is why when journalistic institutions fail to remember this central pillar, we should all be outraged because our mutual destruction follows. It may sound like hyperbole, but I assure you it’s not. When our record of where we come from is flawed, or our truth to put it more simply, the new lies stack on top of the old until our connection to reality becomes so disjointed that our understanding of the world ultimately implodes. The failure of current journalism, among other factors, is undoubtedly linked to the current regression of the Western world. In consequence, we have become the biggest perpetrators of the crimes our democracies were created to prevent.
Of course, for those who pay attention, this failure of mainstream journalism I speak of is nothing new. It has been ongoing for decades and was all too obvious following the Iraq war fiasco. The U.S. and U.K. governments, headed by people who cared for little other than their own personal gain, told the people of their respective countries a slew of fabrications and the media establishment, other than a handful of exceptions, simply went along for the ride.
This was something that consumed my interest when I was training to be a journalist. How could hundreds of reputable, well-meaning journalists get it so wrong? I read numerous books on the issue—from Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent and Philip Knightley’s The First Casualty to work by Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer-prize-winning former foreign correspondent for the New York Times who was booted out for opposing that war (who I disagree with on some things, for the record)—but still, I believed that honest journalism could be done. Nothing I read however, came close to the dishonesty and deception I experienced while at Newsweek. Previously, I believed that not enough journalists questioned the government narrative sufficiently. I believed they failed to examine the facts with close enough attention and had not connected the dots as a handful of others had done.
No. The problem is far worse than that….
….Veterans of the trade Seymour Hersh and Robert Fisk also poked holes in the U.S. government narrative, but their treatment by other journalists has been one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the press.
Hersh—who exposed the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War, the clandestine bombing of Cambodia, the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, in addition to telling the world the real story of how Osama Bin Laden died—was shunned from the industry for reporting a simple fact: Bashar al-Assad’s government is not the only actor with access to chemical weapons in Syria. After a sarin attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013, he was further smeared for reporting that Barack Obama withheld important military intelligence: samples examined in Britain’s Porton Down did not match the chemical signatures of sarin held in the Syrian government’s arsenals.
Fisk, writing days before the Syrian conflict escalated, in a piece that asked Americans to consider what they were really doing in the Middle East as the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 approached, also raised important questions, but he too was largely ignored.
I also did my best to document evidence that poked holes in the narrative as best I could. In 2016, I wrote how Egyptian authorities arrested five people for allegedly filming staged propaganda that purported to be from Syria. Though I’m not aware of any evidence to suggest that the two are connected and I make no such claims, these arrests came to light after The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Sunday Times revealed that a British PR firm, Bell Pottinger, was working with the CIA, the Pentagon and the National Security Council and received $540 million to create false propaganda in Iraq a month prior.
The following year, after the alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, I documented the intriguing story of Shajul Islam, the British doctor who purported to have treated the alleged victims and appeared on several television networks including NBC to sell the case for retaliation. He gushed with heroism, but it was not reported he was previously charged with terror offences in the U.K. and was in fact considered a “committed jihadist” by MI6. He was imprisoned in 2013 in connection with the kidnapping of two Western photo-journalists in northern Syria and was struck off Britain’s General Medical Council in 2016. Why he was released without sentencing and was allowed to travel back to Syria remains a mystery to me.
I also refused to recycle the same sloppy language used, inadvertently or not, by a number of other publications. Al Qaeda and their affiliates had always been referred to as terrorists as far as I was aware—why the sudden change to “rebels” or “moderate rebels” for the purposes of Syria? Thankfully, the news editor I worked with most frequently at the time, Fiona Keating, trusted my reporting and had no problems with me using the more appropriate terms “anti-Assad fighters” or “insurgents”—though one could arguably say even that was not accurate enough.
When buses carrying civilian refugees hoping to escape the fighting in Idlib province were attacked with car bombs in April of 2017, killing over 100, most of them women and children, I was disappointed with the Guardian and the BBC for continuing with their use of this infantile word, but this was not the language I felt to be appropriate in my report….
….Fast forward to 2019, I decided to return to journalism as I was feeling the pressure to have “a grown-up job” and could not count on my ability to be a novelist as a means of long-term career stability. So when I joined Newsweek in September, I was extremely thankful for the opportunity and had no intention of being controversial—the number of jobs in the industry appeared to be shrinking and, besides, the Syrian conflict appeared to be dying down. As soon as I arrived, Newsweek editor-in-chief Nancy Cooper emphasised original reporting and I was even even more pleased. I wanted to come in, get my head down and start building my reputation as a journalist again.
Then on October 6, President Donald Trump and the military machine behind him threw my quiet hopes of staying well clear of Syria into disarray. He announced the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the country and green-lit the Turkish invasion that followed in a matter of days. Given my understanding of the situation, I was asked by Newsweek editors to report on this….
….I started to come across growing evidence that the U.N.-backed body for investigating chemical weapons use, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), issued a doctored report about an alleged chemical attack in Douma in April of 2018, much to the anger of OPCW investigators who visited the scene. Once Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday published his story containing a leaked letter that was circulated internally from one of the disgruntled OPCW scientists, I believed there was more than enough evidence to publish the story in Newsweek. That case was made even stronger when the letter was confirmed by Reuters and had been corroborated by former OPCW director-general Dr. Jose Bustani.
Although I am no stranger to having story ideas rejected, or having to censor my language to not rock the ship, this was a truth that had to be told. I was not prepared to back down on this….
….After OPCW experts found trace levels of chlorine when they visited Douma—i.e. no different than the levels of chlorine normally present in the atmosphere—or raised concerns that the canisters may have been tampered with or placed, both of which were reflected in their original reports, they made protestations because this information was withheld from the final report that was released to the world’s media. Instead, the final wording said chlorine was “likely” used and the war machine continued.
This is not a “conspiracy theory” as Newsweek sadly said in a statement to Fox News—interestingly the only mainstream publication to cover my resignation. Real OPCW scientists have met with real journalists and explained the timeline of events. They provided internal documents that proved these allegations—documents that were then confirmed by Reuters. This is all I wanted to report….
….This practice of editors telling journalists what to write, with what angle and with headlines already assigned is completely backwards and is the cause of numerous problems. How can journalists find genuine newsworthy developments if what to write has already been scripted for them?
I spoke to several Newsweek journalists about this very problem prior to my departure and they shared the same concerns. This was the very same problem that led to Jessica Kwong’s firing a week before my resignation….
After outlining some issues he’d had with his editors on the content of other stories, Haddad discusses in more detail the problems with one editor in particular:
While all this was going on, and while I waited for a response from Laura, I started to have strong suspicions that something wasn’t quite right with Dimi [Reider], the so-called foreign affairs editor. For starters, he rarely did any foreign affairs editing. He rarely did any editing at all….
The only times Dimi appeared to be involved is when a story had the potential to be controversial. He worked on my white phosphorus investigation, made the decision to not publish anything about the original Ilhan spy claims and rejected my attempts at publishing the OPCW leaks….
…I was so bewildered when he flatly refused to publish the OPCW revelations. Surely any editor worth their salt would see this as big? Of course, I understood that the implications of such a piece would be substantial and not easy to report—it was the strongest evidence of lies about Syria to date—but surely most educated people could see this coming? Other evidence was growing by the day.
But no. As the earlier messages showed, there was no desire to report these revelations, regardless of how strong the evidence appeared to be. Dimi was simply happy to defer to Bellingcat—a clearly dubious organization as others have taken the time to address, such as here and here—instead of allowing journalists who are more than capable of doing their own research to do their job.
It was this realization that made me start to question Dimi. When I looked a little deeper, he was the missing piece.
Dimi worked at the European Council on Foreign Relations from 2013 and 2016—the sister organization to the more prevalent think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Some may be asking why this matters, but the lobbying group—the largest and most powerful in the United States—is nicknamed “Wall Street’s think-tank” for a reason, as the book by Laurence H. Shoup with the same title explains.
To understand just how influential the body is, it is worth noting that 10 of George H. W. Bush’s top 11 foreign policymakers were members, as was the former president himself. Bill Clinton, also a member, hired 15 foreign policymakers with CFR membership from a total of 17. George W. Bush hired 14 CFR members as top foreign policymakers and Barack Obama had 12, with a further five working in domestic policy positions.
Its European sister act is also highly influential, as this graphic from its website about current members demonstrates.
It is also worth noting that the CFR’s current chairman is David Rubenstein, co-founder and executive chairman of the Carlyle Group—the same Carlyle Group which previously described itself as the “leading private equity investor in the aerospace and the defense industries,” until it probably decided it was not a good look to boast about its war profiteering, though its investments in those industries remain.
It is the same Carlyle Group that hosted Osama bin Laden’s brother as the guest of honor for the group’s annual investor meeting in Washington D.C. the same day the Twin Towers fell. George H. W. Bush, an informal advisor to Carlyle, was also present.
Furthermore, one of the CFR’s most notorious experts was former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger—a man famously described by Christopher Hitchens as America’s greatest ever war criminal. His long list of crimes against humanity cannot be summarized quickly….
….But what about the think tank’s influence on journalism?
I’m unaware if what I will report here is common knowledge to the rest of the industry, but what I discovered when researching this topic is unacceptable to me.
I learned that aside from a large number of prominent journalists holding membership, I discovered that the CFR offers fellowships for journalists to come work alongside its many State Department and Department of Defensive representatives. A list of historical fellows includes top reporters and editors from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and CNN, among others—not forgetting journalists from Newsweek.
The most prominent CFR member to join Newsweek’s ranks was Fareed Zakaria. After stints at Yale and Harvard, at the age of 28, Zakaria became the managing editor of Foreign Affairs—the CFR’s own in-house publication. From there, he became the editor of Newsweek International in 2000, before moving on to edit Time Magazine in 2010….
….Zakaria’s Newsweek columns prior to the war also make for interesting reading. “Let’s get real with Iraq,” one headline reads as early as 2001. “Time to take on America’s haters,” another one goes on. Others include “It’s time to do as daddy did,” and “Invade Iraq, but bring friends.” I could go on.
Interestingly, once the war had started in 2003, Foreign Affairs—where Zakaria writes to this day—was ranked first by research firm Erdos and Morgan as the most successful in influencing in public opinion. It achieved the accolade in 2005 and again in 2006. Results for other years are not known.
Scrolling through LinkedIn and Twitter, numerous individuals listed as journalists have taken the same path Zakaria has taken. They complete State Department-funded “diplomacy” degrees from prestigious universities—such as Harvard, Yale, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, or at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London—before gritting their teeth at publications or think tanks funded by the CFR or Open Society Foundations. Once their unquestioning obedience is demonstrated, they slowly filter into mainstream organizations or Foreign Affairs.
It also emerged that this is the same path that Dimi has taken. +972 Magazine’s [which Dimi co-founded] biggest funder is the Rockefeller Brother’s Fund, whose president and CEO, Stephen Heintz, is a CFR member. In addition to his work with the ECFR, Dimi is also listed as a research associate at SOAS.
This conflict of interests may be known to other journalists in the trade, but I will repeat: this is unacceptable to me.
The U.S. government, in an ugly alliance with those the profit the most from war, has its tentacles in every part of the media—imposters, with ties to the U.S. State Department, sit in newsrooms all over the world. Editors, with no apparent connections to the member’s club, have done nothing to resist. Together, they filter out what can or cannot be reported. Inconvenient stories are completely blocked. As a result, journalism is quickly dying. America is regressing because it lacks the truth.
The Afghanistan Papers, released this week by the Washington Post, showed further evidence of this. Misinformation, a trillion dollars wasted and two thousand Americans killed—and who knows how many more Afghanis. The newspapers ran countless stories on this utter failure, however, none will tell you how they are to blame. The same mistakes are being repeated. The situation is becoming more grave. Real journalists and ordinary people need to take back journalism….
Right after Haddad released his bombshell article, Wikileaks released more documents pertaining to the OPCW report on Douma. Among the documents released was a memo signed by 20 of the inspectors involved in the Douma investigation stating that the final OPCW report “did not reflect the views of the team members that deployed to [Syria].”
Caitlin Johnstone is one of the first to do a full write-up on these releases and their highlights:
WikiLeaks has published multiple documents providing further details on the coverup within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of its own investigators’ findings which contradicted the official story we were all given about an alleged chlorine gas attack in Douma, Syria last year. The alleged chemical weapons incident was blamed on the Syrian government by the US and its allies, who launched airstrikes against Syria several days later. Subsequent evidence indicating that there was insufficient reason to conclude the chlorine gas attack ever happened was repressed by the OPCW, reportedly at the urging of US government officials.
The new publications by WikiLeaks add new detail to this still-unfolding scandal, providing more evidence to further invalidate attempts by establishment Syria narrative managers to spin it all as an empty conspiracy theory. The OPCW has no business hiding any information from the public which casts doubt on the official narrative about an incident which was used to justify an act of war on a sovereign nation.
The following are hyperlinks to the individual OPCW documents WikiLeaks published, with some highlights found therein:
1. The symptoms of the alleged victims of the supposed chemical incident were inconsistent with chlorine gas poisoning.
“Some of the signs and symptoms described by witnesses and noted in photos and video recordings taken by witnesses, of the alleged victims are not consistent with exposure to chlorine-containing choking or blood agents such as chlorine gas, phosgene or cyanogen chloride,” we learn in the unredacted first draft. “Specifically, the rapid onset of heavy buccal and nasal frothing in many victims, as well as the colour of the secretions, is not indicative of intoxication from such chemicals.”
“The large number of decedents in the one location (allegedly 40 to 45), most of whom were seen in videos and photos strewn on the floor of the apartments away from open windows, and within a few meters of an escape to un-poisoned or less toxic air, is at odds with intoxication by chlorine-based choking or blood agents, even at high concentrations,” the unredacted draft says.
This important information was omitted from the Interim Report and completely contradicted by the Final Report, which said that the investigation had found “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place. This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine. The toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine.”
2. OPCW inspectors couldn’t find any explanation for why the gas cylinders supposedly dropped from Syrian aircraft were so undamaged by the fall.
“The FFM [Fact-Finding Mission] team is unable to provide satisfactory explanations for the relatively moderate damage to the cylinders allegedly dropped from an unknown height, compared to the destruction caused to the rebar-reinforced concrete roofs,” reads the leaked first draft. “In the case of Location 4, how the cylinder ended up on the bed, given the point at which it allegedly penetrated the room, remains unclear. The team considers that further studies by specialists in metallurgy and structural engineering or mechanics are required to provide an authoritative assessment of the team’s observations.”
We now know that a specialist was subsequently recruited to find an answer to this mystery. A leaked document dated February 2019 and published by the Working Group On Syria, Propaganda and Media in May 2019 was signed by a longtime OPCW inspector named Ian Henderson. Henderson, a South African ballistics expert, ran some experiments and determined that “The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft,” writing instead that the cylinders being “manually placed” (i.e. staged) in the locations where investigators found them is “the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.”
More on Ian Henderson in a moment.
3. The team concluded that either the victims were poisoned with some unknown gas which wasn’t chlorine, or there was no chemical weapon at all.
“The inconsistency between the presence of a putative chlorine-containing toxic chocking or blood agent on the one hand and the testimonies of alleged witnesses and symptoms observed from video footage and photographs, on the other, cannot be rationalised,” the unredacted first draft reads. “The team considered two possible explanations for the incongruity:
a. The victims were exposed to another highly toxic chemical agent that gave rise to the symptoms observed and has so far gone undetected.
b. The fatalities resulted from a non-chemical-related incident.”
Again, none of this information made it into any of the OPCW’s public reports on the Douma incident. The difference between the information we were given (that a chlorine gas attack took place and the strong suggestion that it was dropped by Syrian aircraft) and the report the inspectors were initially trying to put together (literally the exact opposite) is staggering. For more insider information on the deliberation between OPCW inspectors who wanted their actual findings to be reported and the organisation officials who conspired to omit those findings, read this November report by journalist Jonathan Steele.
It’s worth noting that this memo is dated two weeks after the OPCW published its Final Report on the Douma incident in March 2019, because it further invalidates the bogus argument made by narrative management firms like Bellingcat claiming that the grievances of the dissenting OPCW inspectors had been satisfactorily addressed by the time the Final Report was published.
Clearly the concerns were not addressed, because the memo consists entirely of complaints, and according to its author “there are about 20 inspectors who have expressed their concern over the current situation.”
The memo’s author complains that the FFM report was made almost exclusively by team members who never even went to Douma, doing their research instead solely in “Country X”, which WikiLeaks speculates may be Turkey.
“The FFM report does not reflect the views of all the teams that deployed to Douma,” the memo says. “Only one team member (a paramedic) of the so-called ‘FFM core team’ was in Douma. The FFM report was written by this core team, thus by people who had only operated in Country X.”
“After the exclusion of all team members other than a small cadre of members who had deployed (and deployed again in October 2018) to Country X, the conclusion seems to have turned completely in the opposite direction. The FFM team members find this confusing, and are concerned to know how this occurred.”
The memo’s author is unnamed in the WikiLeaks document, but claims to have been “assigned the task of analysis and assessment of the ballistics of the two cylinders,” indicating that it was likely the aforementioned Ian Henderson. A concurrent publication by Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail appears to confirm this. Hitchens reports that when Henderson lodged his Engineering Assessment in the OPCW’s secure registry after failing to get traction for his report, which the memo’s author also reports to have done, an unpopular unnamed OPCW official nicknamed “Voldemort” ordered that every trace of the report be removed.
“Mr Henderson tried to get his research included in the final report, but when it became clear it would be excluded, he lodged a copy in a secure registry, known as the Documents Registry Archive (DRA),” Hitchens reported. “This is normal practice for such confidential material, but when ‘Voldemort’ heard about it, he sent an email to subordinates saying: ‘Please get this document out of DRA … And please remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever in DRA’.”
So to recap, the OPCW enlisted a longtime ballistics expert with an extensive history of work with the organisation to run some experiments and produce an Engineering Assessment to explain how the alleged chlorine cylinders could have been found in the condition they were found in, and when he came to conclusions which were exculpatory for the Syrian government, his boss ordered every sign of it purged from the registry.
Again, not a whisper of any of this was breathed in the OPCW’s public reports on the Douma incident, despite somewhere around 20 inspectors having objections. The OPCW had no business hiding this from the public.
Read the rest of Johnstone’s article here.