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American weapons inspector: ‘US, British and French claims that Syrian Government used chemical weapons totally bogus’

Weapons Inspector Refutes U.S. Syria Chemical Claims.

Alex Christoforou

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Dennis J Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio of this interview and the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.

Scott Ritter is arguably the most experienced American weapons inspector and in this interview with Dennis J. Bernstein he levels a frank assessment of U.S. government assertions about chemical weapons use.

Via Consortium News by Dennis J Bernstein

In the 1980’s, Scott Ritter was a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps, specializing in intelligence.  In 1987, Ritter was assigned to the On-Site Inspection Agency, which was put together to go into the Soviet Union and oversee the implementation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.  This was the first time that on-site inspection had been used as part of a disarmament verification process.

Ritter was one of the groundbreakers in developing on-site inspection techniques and methodologies. With this unique experience behind him, Ritter was asked in 1991, at the end of the Gulf War, to join the United Nations Special Commission, which was tasked by the Security Council to oversee the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.  From 1991 to 1998, Ritter served as a chief weapons inspector and led a number of teams into Iraq.

According to Ritter, in the following Flashpoints Radio interview with Dennis Bernstein conducted on April 23rd, US, British and French claims that the Syrian Government used chemical weapons against civilians last month appear to be totally bogus.

Dennis Bernstein:  You have been speaking out recently about the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Could you outline your case?

Scott Ritter: There are a lot of similarities between the Syrian case and the Iraqi case.  Both countries possess weapons of mass destruction. Syria had a very large chemical weapons program.

In 2013 there was an incident in a suburb of Damascus called Ghouta, the same suburb where the current controversy is taking place.  The allegations were that the Syrian government used sarin nerve agent against the civilian population. The Syrian government denied that, but as a result of that incident the international community got together and compelled Syria into signing the Chemical Weapons Convention, declaring the totality of its chemical weapons holdings, and opening itself to be disarmed by inspections of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Russia was chosen to be the guarantor of Syria’s compliance. The bottom line is that Syria had the weapons but was verified by 2016 as being in 100% compliance. The totality of Syria’s chemical weapons program was eliminated.

At the same time that this disarmament process was taking place, Syria was being engulfed in a civil war which has resulted in a humanitarian crisis.  Over a half million people have died. It is a war that pits the Syrian government against a variety of anti-regime forces, many of which are Islamic in nature: the Islamic State, Al Nusra, Al Qaeda.  Some of these Islamic factions have been in the vicinity of Ghouta since 2012.

Earlier this year, the Syrian government initiated an offensive to liberate that area of these factions.  It was very heavy fighting, thousands of civilians were killed, with massive aerial bombardment. Government forces were prevailing and by April 6 it looked as if the militants were preparing to surrender.

Suddenly the allegations come out that there was this chemical weapons attack.  It wasn’t a massive chemical weapons attack, it was dropping one or two so-called “barrel bombs,” improvised devices that contained chlorine gas canisters.  According to the militants, between 40 and 70 people were killed and up to 500 people were made ill. The United States and other nations picked up on this, saying that this was proof positive that Syria has been lying about its chemical weapons program and that Russia has been behind Syria’s retention of chemical weapons.  This is the case the US made to launch its missile strike [on April 14].

There are a lot of problems with this scenario.  Again, why would the Syrian government, at the moment of victory, use a pinprick chemical attack with zero military value?  It added nothing to the military campaign and invited the wrath of the West at a critical time, when the rebels were begging for Western intervention.

Many, including the Russian government, believe that this was a staged event.  There has been no hard evidence put forward by anyone that an attack took place.  Shortly after allegations of the attack came out, the entire town of Douma was taken over by the Syrian Army while the rebels were evacuated.

The places that were alleged to have been attacked were inspected by Russian chemical weapons specialists, who found zero trace of any chemicals weapons activity.  The same inspectors who oversaw the disarmament of Syria were mobilized to return to Syria and do an investigation. They were supposed to start their work this past weekend [April 21-22].  They arrived in Damascus the day after the missile strikes occurred but they still haven’t been out to the sites. The United States, France and Great Britain have all admitted that the only evidence they have used to justify this attack were the photographs and videotapes sent to them by the rebel forces.

I have great concern about the United States carrying out an attack on a sovereign nation based on no hard evidence.  The longer we wait, the longer it takes to get inspectors onto the site, the more claims we are going to get that the Russians have sanitized it.  I believe that the last thing the United States wanted was inspectors to get on-site and carry out a forensic investigation that would have found that a chemical attack did not in fact take place.

DB: It is sort of like cleaning up a police crime scene before you check for evidence.

SR: The United States didn’t actually bomb the site that was attacked.  They bombed three other facilities. One was in the suburbs of Damascus, a major metropolitan area.  The generals said that they believed there were quantities of nerve agent there. So, in a building in a densely populated area where we believe nerve agent is stored, what do we do? We blow it up! If there had in fact been nerve agent there, it would have resulted in hundreds or even thousands of deaths. That fact that nobody died is the clearest evidence yet that there was no nerve agent there. The United States is just winging it, making it up.

One of the tragedies is that we can no longer trust our military, our intelligence services, our politicians.  They will manufacture whatever narrative they need to justify an action that they deem to be politically expedient.

DB: Isn’t it also the case that there were problems with the allegations concerning Syria using chemical weapons in 2013 and then again in 2015?  I believe The New York Times had to retract their 2013 story.

SR: They put out a story about thousands of people dying, claiming that it was definitely done by the Syrian government. It turned out later that the number of deaths was far lower and that the weapons systems used were probably in the possession of the rebels.  It was a case of the rebels staging a chemical attack in order to get the world to intervene on their behalf.

A similar scenario unfolded last year when the Syrian government dropped two or three bombs on a village and suddenly there were reports that there was sarin nerve agent and chlorine gas wafting through the village, killing scores of people.  Videotapes were taken of dead and dying and suffering people which prompted Trump to intervene. Inspectors never went to the site. Instead they relied upon evidence collected by the rebels.

As a weapons inspector, I can tell you that chain of custody of any samples that are to be used in the investigation is an absolute.  You have to be at the site when it is collected, it has to be certified to be in your possession until the laboratory. Any break in the chain of custody makes that evidence useless for a legitimate investigation.  So we have evidence collected by the rebels. They videotaped themselves carrying out the inspection, wearing training suits that would not have protected them at all from chemical weapons! Like almost everything having to do with these rebels, this was a staged event, an act of theater.

DB: Who has been supporting this particular group of rebels?

SR:  On the one hand, we have the actual fighters, the Army of Islam, a Saudi-backed fundamentalist group who are extraordinarily brutal.  Embedded within the fighters are a variety of Western-trained and Western-funded NGOs such as the White Helmets and the Syrian-American Medical Society.  But their primary focus isn’t rescue, in the case of the White Helmets, or medical care in the case of the Syrian-American Medical Society, but rather anti-regime propaganda. Many of the reports that came out of Douma originated with these two NGO’s.

DB: You mentioned “chain of custody.”  That’s what was most ridiculous about sending in inspectors.  The first thing you would want to do is establish chain of custody and nail down the crime scene.

SR: I was a participant in the Gulf War and we spent the bulk of that war conducting a massive aerial campaign against Iraq.  I was one of the people who helped come up with the target list that was used to attack. Each target had to have a purpose.

Let’s look what happened in Syria [on April 14].  We bombed three targets, a research facility in Damascus and two bunker facilities in western Syria.  It was claimed that all three targets were involved with a Syrian chemical weapons program. But the Syria weapons program was verified to be disarmed.  So what chemical weapons program are we talking about? Then US officials said that one of these sites stored sarin nerve agent and chemical production equipment.  That is a very specific statement. Now, if Syria was verified to be disarmed last year, with all this material eliminated, what are they talking about? What evidence do they have that any of this material exists?  They just make it up. 

If I had been a member of that inspections team, I would have been able to tell you with 100% certainty what took place at that site.  It wasn’t that long ago that the allegations took place, there are very good forensic techniques that can be applied. We would be able to reverse engineer that site and tell you exactly what happened when.  Let’s say an inspection team had gone in and we found that there was sarin nerve agent. Now, the US government can say, there is not supposed to be any sarin nerve agent in Syria, therefore we can state that the Syrians have a covert sarin nerve agent capability.  But still you don’t know where it is, so now you have to say we assess that it could be in this bunker.

We bombed empty buildings. We didn’t degrade Syria’s chemical weapons capability.  They got rid of it. We were among the nations that certified that they had been disarmed.  We just created this phantom threat out of nothing so that we could attack Syria and our president could be seen as being presidential, as being the commander in chief at a time when his credibility was being attacked on the home front.

DB: Amazing.  That helps clarify the situation.  Of course, it also leaves us terrified because we are so far away from the truth.

SR: As an American citizen who happens to be empowered with knowledge about how weapons inspections work, how decisions are made regarding war, I am disillusioned beyond belief.

This isn’t the first time we have been lied to by the president.  But we have been lied to by military officers who are supposed to be above that.  Three top Marine Corps officers stood before the American people and told bald-faced lies about what was going on.  We have been lied to by Congress, who are supposed to be the people’s representatives who provide a check against executive overreach.  And we have been lied to by the corporate media, a bunch of paid mouthpieces who repeat what the government tells them without question.

So Donald Trump can say there are chemical weapons in Syria, the generals parrot his words, the Congress nods its head dumbly, and the mass media repeats it over and over again to the American public.

DB: Are you worried that we might end up in a shooting war with Russia at this point?

SR: A week ago I was very worried. If I am going to give kudos to Jim Mattis it will be because he took the desire of Trump and Bolton to create a major crisis with Russia over the allegations of Syrian chemical weapons use and was able to water that down into putting on a show for the American people.  We warned the Russians in advance, there were no casualties, we blew up three empty buildings. We spent a quarter of a billion dollars of taxpayer money and we got to pat ourselves on the back and tell everybody how great we are. But we avoided a needless confrontation with the Russians and I am a lot calmer today about the potential of a shooting war with Russia than I was a week ago.

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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