Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Case Against "Syria's Disappeared"

(quick version)
March 31, 2017

Note: quick version still doesn't mean short version. I weigh in heavily on one aspect. I may do a fuller review later, but maybe not. This may be good enough.

Syria's Disappeared: The Case Against Assad
I was late to learn of this mockumentary recently aired by UK's channel 4, and since gone "viral." Some first links:

from the Guardian link:
"Mansour al-Omari, who courageously smuggled out details of other prisoners written on scraps of cloth in rust and blood." That's got to be real, right? In the program, Omari says a tailor in the cell sewed them up into his collar to smuggle out. We have the smuggled "Caesar Photos," the smuggled "Assad Files (see below)" and now ... "The Mazzeh Scraps"? Like Schindler's List via the Turin Shroud via the Tailor of ... whatever, I'm not good with this part... This is quite a story. It's allegedly been sitting there since (late 2012?) and so far, no one I've noticed has even mentioned it until just now. Is that because it was just dreamed up and fabricated recently? Or because someone was keeping it secret as war crimes evidence? I mean, you don't go smearing that all over the TV news.... at least not until just now, for some reason.

I haven't watched the whole program (various postings around - this one has worked for me so far). Of course, I'm not the target audience, but I for one am never too choked-up-to-think-straight by how the piano notes and "human stories" line up in such videos. I don't trust these people. One important alleged former prisoner is Mazen Alhummada - they show documents that name this guy and say he's wanted for arrest in connection with something - that was alrady noted, and he's stuck to the story he told to Ben Taub last year as Mazen al-Hamada for the New Yorker. For the most part then, 'nuff said already.

I could share my thoughts on him and the other witnesses, but I don't have time to analyze them all, and my initial thoughts were coming out terse and almost vulgar, so ...  let's skip what some would call victim-blaming until I'm better-informed, and take a good hard look at what the hired Euro-American white guy professionals are bringing to the picture.

How Bill Wiley Found Nothing and Spun It
And let's skip that smiley goofball Stephen Rapp. He could be just a clueless, senile prop who "might remember the holocaust" and really knows nothing of the direct evidence or the tricks being pulled, and get all his assessments from someone who looks at it for him. (He could also be a directly involved slimeball, I'm not at all sure.)

Let's skip to Bill Wiley, the aged but fit Canadian investigator of war crimes, and at once skip to - paperwork! The video emphasizes this, perhaps knowing their witnesses seem dubious and need the help. To get any screen time, paperwork better be damn interesting. They say it's "thousands" of official documents relating to mass arrests, which rebels seized in various overrun spots. I'll consider what glimpses of these are shared. I'd love to have a look at these things (well-translated), but that won't be allowed.

This is something I took a decent (but somewhat cursory) look at last year when it came up in the New Yorker as the "Assad Files," in the piece by Ben Taub citing Mr. Hamada. Bill Wiley was cited in that, apparently having introduced the witness and the journalist in the first place. He was working on these documents with US lawyer Chris Engels, who led (then if not now) "the regime-crimes unit of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), an independent investigative body founded in 2012, in response to the Syrian war." (read: privately-funded think-tank/whatever they want - funding isn't clear, but likely Saudi, Qatari, etc.).

Engels doesn't seem to appear in this new film, but Wiley does, eagerly, as a central narrator and guide for "Syria's Disappeared." 

After the papers were seized by foreign-supported militants, the CIJA pored over them. It seems evident to me they found nothing real to support their case, just a few things that could be spun as seemingly ominous. (The rebels who found the papers probably saw no value in them either, and gladly let some Western lawyer-types have a whack at the useless stuff. Good call!)

While it's reasonable to wonder if the documents are fake, to me they seem to be genuine, reflecting the methods of stopping what they call a "crisis." Did they know it was all peaceful? It seems like they thought it was violent, but the selective quotations leave this unclear.

Consider: as explained in the last review, the best mention of torture offered so far was the head of Deir Ezzor’s military intelligence branch expressing his "outrage" (is that code?) on hearing some moderately sever torture (including electrocution and sodomizing with soda) was being used in some places. It's not certain it was, but maybe, and he heard it said. He ordered that if it was happening it be stopped. Apparently no order to start, or to start anything worse, anywhere, has been found yet.

Seeing how weak this was, it seems the CIJA or at least Mr. Wiley have endeavored to connect that with lots of outside information. - mainly the highly dubious "former prisoner" stories - and tried to tie it in with other allegations like the "Caesar photos." And they try to do so in the media to influence the public, for some reason (will the public be calling in the verdict like some reality TV show when it comes to trial?)

So in a roundabout way, they seem to almost prove there was no systematic criminal repression, mass torture-extermination-genocide program, etc. as constantly alleged over the years. There was a lot of this alleged. If it was true, authorities would have to talk about at least some of it in these documents, and the CIJA would find it and show us that. But so far they're holding back anything good they might have found. Every time they offer what seems to be an example, it fails, like the "outrage" memo. I wonder if they realize that.

"You Ought to Listen to What They Have to Say"
At 22:35 in the video is what should be one of the stronger points in these documents, the way it's highlighted.  Wiley reads from a certain document dated September 11, 2011 (as I read the bottom date). They don't mention the date maybe because it reminds folks of crisis and terrorism, which is something they're not mentioning in regard to this "crisis" in Syria.

Wiley says "quote," then continues with presumably continuous language from one spot on the page.
"Parents and relatives of the arrested persons are daily asking about the fate of sons, fathers, and brothers. You ought to listen to what they have to say. The hospital refrigerator is full of unidentified corpses that have disintegrated since they have been there for a long period of time."
I think this was already quoted. I don't have it all memorized. In fact, yes... they already shared this with Ben Taub. This one seems important to them, and to Taub as well. This "dramatic" passage closes a section in the New Yorker piece:
In September, the public attorney in Deir Ezzor sent three faxes—later retrieved by the CIJA’s investigators—to the governor, the Syrian minister of justice, and the head of the province’s joint investigation committee, urging them to stop violating Syrian law. In one, he wrote, “Parents and relatives of the arrested persons are asking daily about the fates of sons, fathers, and brothers. You ought to listen to what they have to say. The hospital refrigerator is full of unidentified corpses that have disintegrated, since they have been there for a long period of time.”
I didn't analyze the passage then, but will now. The bolded part should have a better supporting quote. No direct quote about the law or bending or breaking it is shared. It might be supported, but sounds more like this is someone's wording for a notion poorly inferred from the part they do share.

I'll see about getting a translation of the header as shown, to get more context. But ... basically, someone's explaining how people have been arrested (by them? or is it possible he's cutting out the "abducted by terrorists" part?). Their relatives are asking about them daily, and they're saying something that makes him (or her) say "you ought to listen to what they have to say" - in what sense is not clear. (They have legitimate gripes? They're spouting terrorist propaganda and absurd accusations?)

Also, there are people winding up dead, probably just found and held by the government as unidentified bodies, whose families they can't locate, that are rotting. This is a real problem, it seems, which Damascus remains quiet about but would blame terrorists for. (see the Hamza al-Khatib/Saida massacre case) They'd probably be right. At some point as it got even worse, it seems they largely skipped the refrigeration and went straight to burial after documentation. I suppose those order will be selectively cited somewhere in the CIJA case.

So, in the quote above, I'm pretty sure the bodies clause is separate from the arrestees issue. It's possible that what the families "have to say" is that bodies are piling up in the hospital refrigerators. But that would be strange; that's more like a thing the hospital knows. So after laying out two apparent problems that happened to be mentioned side-by-side, Wiley notes this document was sent to the minister of justice. And so the highest levels were informed of  "THIS LOCALIZED PROBLEM." Singular. 

Which problem does he mean? The frustrated families or the dead bodies? Maybe both at once? THE PROBLEM, if one insists on squishing all that together, must be the arrested people are being killed and stuffed in refrigerators, and their families know about this and are telling authorities about it. And here that fact is being communicated to the minister of justice. (but they must have already known about it, having previously ordered it done ... somewhere Wiley didn't find yet?)

As the video narrator notes right after, the government knows just who they arrested. But in secret papers between themselves, they must pretend dead prisoners are "unidentified," as some kind of code? But isn't it the families saying there's "unidentified corpses" piling up? Or, wait ...

This all makes fairly little sense, so he's probably just misreading it, while I'm reading it right.I suggest he just found one spot like this in the thousands of papers, where worry over the fate of prisoners is mentioned right next to dead bodies, and ran it together in his wily style. That's probably no mistake, but an intentional, strategic misrepresentation of the evidence. He did it to earn a paycheck though, to be fair. And it was probably a big-ass check.

If this were a fluke, then most other documents probably wouldn't have such handy devices, with thoughts better organized into separate paragraphs, etc.. Hence this one oft-repeated best example. And they had thousands of communications, recall. This works against you when all you can come up with from all of that is a few apparent tricks like this. It means you have thousands of papers that don't support your case, and in fact pretty much disprove it.

Again, let's consider what they apparently didn't they find in this case:
- anything in this document to clarify it really says what Wiley implies it does.
- Any prior order to exterminate prisoners and stuff them in the hospital morgue
- Any other document explaining that "unidentified" is a code for "prisoner"

So ... how were these orders transmitted from the leaders who need to be held accountable (and we're not naming names)? Or ... gasp ... was Assad not in charge of this? Or ... gasp ... was this not even real to begin with? Are these crimes simply made up from such wordplay?

Put simply: The papers say arrest people. All that other stuff making it sound horrific and genocidal is coming from activists, some of whom claim to be direct witnesses. And it doesn't seem the paperwork supports any of their juiciest claims.
Re-Hashing Another Best Example:
Ben Taub helped tout another important document about a month before the above one. On Aug. 5, 2011, there was a national crisis management cell established to coordinate a national response to (crush all peaceful dissent?) the "crisis." It seems they felt some need to find who was behind whatever and arrest them. The documents from that act form "the linchpin of the CIJA’s case against officials in the Syrian regime," as Taub put it. Wiley explained it would implicate officials, because “their names are all over those documents." 

Apparently, it shows all the top levels discussing the need to arrest more people in many areas, and try to coordinate the whole thing. Nothing criminal was found, or at least specified, in the documents.

Not mentioned: in the first days of August there was growing condemnation of Syrian forces for killing 100 peaceful protesters in Hama on July 31, for the first time hitting triple-digits in one place and one day. The US issued its first soft demands for Assad to "step aside" over this crime, and more support and weapons, and Libyans, would be flowing in soon. Bad news for the government - they shouldn't have killed all those people.

Best evidence says they didn't. Militants overran a police station in Hama, killing 13 soldiers and police, and abducting at least 13 others, who were executed  and dumped in the river the next morning, the killers shouting Allahu Akbar. This is video proven, geo-located, CNN reported on it, etc. Check if needed. The rebels didn't mention clashes or 26 police and soldiers killed, just about 75-85 unarmed civilian men shot dead somehow, and ... (unspecified, but it must be 15-25+ somebodies) for a total of "at least 100 deaths in Hama, after tanks and soldiers stormed the city" according to activists (Al-Jazeera). US President Obama said "The reports out of Hama are horrifying and demonstrate the true character of the Syrian regime," while the video proof of an Islamist massacre against captured government servants there ... must be fake or whatever, as "activists" lamely argued. 

The rest of the August 5 document(s) will likely mention these events as backdrop, but this isn't given, maybe because Wiley et al. don't want you to see the real context. But taking this case as an example of alleged crimes there's still no support for ... still, it seems they have found:
 - no orders from those days to kill protesters and fake police deaths in Hama (all improvised locally?)
- no document praising local forces for killing like 75-85 civilians and faking some police deaths in Hama, as the kind of clever thinking they encourage

No. Instead, a few days later, they act like BAD things have been happening recently, and there's some growing CRISIS that needs addressed more forcefully. And this, again, is the CIJA's "linchpin" in their case of epic Human Rights abuses, simply put back in its proper context.  What gives?

What gives is the credibility of this Bill Wiley and any investigation he's involved with. This guy creeps me out. Career war crimes investigator, as he says near the beginning, hoping this Syria case will be his "last act." It seems to be a criminal act, but he'd know more of the details than me. Previously he helped put away Slobodan Milosevic as independent and powerful Yugoslavia was torn apart based on dubious claims, and he's worked on Rwanda. No need with Libya - officials are all dead or locked up in Libya with no cooperation. Lucky break there. But he's doing the Syria job, focused on these papers - but by and large, we can see these do not support the CIJA politicized case and in fact probably undermine it powerfully, when seen in their true context. 

I'll keep repeating this: they have found and will continue to find no orders:
- to stations snipers here or there, to shoot protesters,  and/or police and soldiers, to stoke tensions and create a pretext for mass arrests
- to kill soldiers who refuse to open fire,
- to fake attacks, plant weapons, or smear the protesters,
- to arrest innocents and everyone, make prisoners confess to false crimes
- to starve, neglect, beat, or torture the prisoners (there may some lines arguably to the effect of the last point, but so far just one guy who heard it might be happening, and ordering that it be stopped if it was),
- no orders to have "Shabiha" militias exterminate whole Sunni villages, either systematically or in any particular case
- to genocidally target Sunnis, steal their property, kill all their relatives, rape their women, attack mosques, make them kneel to photos of Assad and declare him their only god, etc. No orders will ever be found. ...
- to systematically drop barrel bombs only on big gathering of civilians and markets, and never on rebel fighters
- to target hospitals, schools, orphanages, etc.
- to impose a total siege, food and baby formula not allowed, etc. 
- to deploy the chemical weapons, in any of the many alleged cases 
 - any of the many, many alleged crimes Wiley would love to have support for. He has plenty of material and has it well-searched, he says - but no clear support for any of these things is mentioned. This suggests they never talked about any of that. They talked about some crisis, and about arrests.

Fake! I call his bluff on that stated confidence about this going to trial. If Damascus has the originals of these, hell yes they could cross-examine it in court. They could show the papers Wiley skips, the lines he skips, the context he must be willfully ignoring as he mines for these nuggets of fool's gold. He doesn't want that exposed. He wants the impression put on TV with good mood music added. He and others just want more vague, emotion-based group-think mobilized against those on their geopolitical hit-list. The usual. And this talk of "evidence" and "justice" is how you trick people into supporting that.  

Wiley definitely shouldn't keep talking on video and showing specific examples like that.  His dark magic works better in secret. Yugoslavia, Rwanda - I'd say his involvement constitutes a question mark over both of those cases. Who in Rwanda was on the West's hit list? I'd have to look into that. 

Side points:
@7:20 - dubbed audio? Apparent pro-gov protest, w/massive streamer in the Syrian national colors, and people even dressed in them? (A lot of red shirts together anyway). Audio: chants of the people want the fall of the regime. Anyone know this particular scene? This recurs: protests that look huge and pro-Assad, with clear anti-Assad audio. I won't call fake until I know. some early protests especially made a point of chanting "peaceful" and waving only Syria's flag. But were they ever that big? And here they say "fall of regime," and wave the flag, so ... Don't think I've seen that before. 

(Also, with those early protests, there were usually guys on motorcycles and rooftops and minarets at the same time, going around doing something, but who cares about that? The protests were peaceful peaceful lovey-dovey, and that's the only part Assad cracked down on, because he's a genocaidal maniac. Anyway, that's the basic picture that emerges here, in the "hidden story" of the Syrian Arab Spring ("hidden" meaning widely-repeated with no question)). 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Alleged Chlorine Attack in Latamna

Syria Chlorine Allegations: March 25, 2017, Latamna, Hama
March 26-29, 2017
edits March 30

First News and First Thoughts
Yet again, as the UN Security council debates sanction over Syria's alleged use of chlorine gas as a weapon, someone has to thumb their noes with a poignant reminder mid-day on March 25 ... no news reports, just tweets so far, including these:
* "2 killed and 30 injured in chlorine strike against hospital in #Hama." - RevolutionSyria
* "Multiple reports of use of #Chlorine gas near #Hama by regime against hospitals in #Latamneh. Medical staff were killed @CNN @BBCWorld @NPR" - Zaher Sahloul
* "Dr. Ali Darwish passed away after he was injured this noon by the #Assad chlorine attack on Alatamneh hospital" - Mohamad Khatoub

This last comes with a photo of the deceased, cropped here:

Consulting the ACLOS alleged chlorine attack checklist ... he has no clear chlorine indicators: His dark. hooded eyes look tired, not damaged or tearing. He has normal skin tone with no red irritation, and no cyanosis (his lips aren't visible, but his fingernail beds are not blue at all). The mask suggests (but doesn't prove) some breathing problem, but there's no sign of coughing blood, or a red face from violent coughing. And there's no bleaching of his shirt. This isn't definitive, but it seems more than likely he was not killed by chlorine after all

For an example of what he should look like, refer to a firefighter called in for rescue work after an alleged rebel chlorine attack in the government-held part of Aleppo's Old City, on August 2, 2016. It's said he was one of 13 people who died when rockets were fired by Harakat Noureddin al-Zenki (the infamous advocates of child beheading). Note his swollen eyes pouring tears, skin redness and mild blue tint (cyanoisis, from low blood oxygen), and blood from the mouth or nose. This is an extreme case, but it's likely Dr. Darweesh would be too, if he was exposed for long, in an underground hospital. But any signs are so faint it seems there just aren't any.
Dr. Darwish shows none of that. This is standard, actually, for the fake type of chlorine attacks consistently reported by the murderous and science-impaired Syrian Islamist opposition.

more forthcoming...

Basic locale: Lattamna = Al-Lataminah on Wikimapia
The hospital is dug into a cave area, they say to withstand regime and Russian bombing. White Helmets provide this photo of the entrance.

Syria Direct 
Syria Direct has a detailed report others (like EA Worldview) are citing.  According to this, the hospital "was set up in November 2016, one month after the town’s sole medical clinic was destroyed by a reported Russian airstrike."
A helicopter dropped a large yellow canister through the concrete roof of the Latamna Surgical Hospital at 1:30pm on Saturday afternoon, Abadah al-Mansour, the hospital’s spokesman told Syria Direct on Sunday.

Chlorine gas was then released, he claims, spreading throughout the rooms of the underground hospital. Without sufficient ventilation for the gas, 35 people were injured—14 of them medical personnel—and three were reportedly killed, including a surgeon.
Orthopedic surgeon Doctor Ali al-Darwish was operating on a patient when gas reportedly entered the hospital. “He refused to leave so he could save the patient,” said al-Mansour. “He paid the price for that with his life, and the operating technician and anesthesiologist are still in critical condition.” The patient al-Darweesh was operating on also died.
Troubling report on the symptoms: “most of the injured suffered from fainting, red eyes and shortness of breath”, the Hama Civil Defense reported. Shortness of breath plus massive pain and severe coughing, check. red eyes, check (but not evident with the one seen fatality). Fainting, no. As I recently explained here, rebels in Syria think chlorine makes victims black out or become paralyzed, leading them to lay there breathing in too much gas. But elsewhere, at other times ... in the world ... that's not true. This running claim is bogus, and suggests they rarely deal with real chlorine cases, and instead they're encountering something different or, more likely, they just keep reading off the same poorly-researched chlorine symptoms they were handed once long ago.

Other sources
(from Twitter)

Cylinder and Damage Analysis
In the Syria Direct piece, a Doctor Abdullah a-Darweesh (no relation?) provides this photo of the gas cylinder allegedly dropped from a helicopter.

I'm still not confident saying how high up this must have fallen from, or if it could be deformed some other way, like launched against a wall at high speed. It is some pretty serious distortion, and I can see why people might presume it was dropped from a helicopter thousands of feet above.

Also, I'm no expert, but the way the distorted end is so strikingly flat, it looks like it hit concrete laid on the ground and flattened against it, not like it broke through unsupported concrete.

Here's how the concrete looks where they say this thing punched through:

Initially, the damage looks ok, likely enough space for a canister to fall through - at least, if it weren't so deformed along the way. The damage isn't obviously fake, but I don't think it really lines up with that squished-flat gas tank. However, it might...

At least four other photos of the canister are around, but here's a good image of a close-up view of the distorted end compared to another view. The corner photo shows an apparent indent on the rim, perhaps the size of the reinforcement bars in the concrete ... that is one point in favor of it lining up after all.

Highlighted markings: CL (meaning chlorine, as this color of yellow paint is also meant to indicate) and a familiar V logo and name NORINCO CAF. The same appeared in the first attacks in 2014, and NORINCO was said to be a Chinese arms maker, meaning these were designed as weapons. Not sure if this was proven either way, but I'd guess NORINCO also makes other stuff, including chlorine tanks, which Syria bought some of, before they were stolen and used for these incidents.

VDC query, all Hama deaths by shelling and warplane shelling on 3-25: the doctor Ali al-Darweesh, doctor, from Kaferzita, is listed as killed in Lattamna by Syrian forces. He's listed as killed by "warplane shelling," but the entry notes "due to the air regime's helicopters shelling of chlorine-fired." No one else is specified as dying by chlorine or in the hospital.  A shepherd boy from Lattamna is listed as killed by artillery shelling - was he the patient Dr. Darwish allegedly died treating? Wounded by the shelling (or whatever) but actually died, supposedly, from the chlorine?

Three other Hama people were displaced to Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib (just 10 km north) before they were killed there this day, by Russian warplane shelling, of course. The two women are married, and one - Fatima Mohammad Abd al-Samad al-Satouf - is from Latamna. The other, Ietidal al-Awad, is from Taibet Al-Imam, and listed as the "wife of Mohammad Abd Alsamad Alsatouf." (so he had a wpoman's name added and got listed wrong?) Also a guy from Morek died in the same incident. At least 8 Idlib people, 7 from a Merati family, were alos killed by bombing in Khan Sheikhoun this day, but with the bombing blamed on Syrian forces. So was the other attack against some IDP shelter?

Anyway, this all has no clear relation to the incident under study, and so the VDC's records seems to help little in this case.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Takfiri Terrorists Pushing for a Third Ma'an Massacre?

Adam Larson aka Caustic Logic
March 23, 2017

Hama offensive: the Islamist multinational forces in Hama province are trying hard to break the pattern of defeat they've suffered lately. In recent days they've overrun several towns and are pushing further on several fronts, including towards the city of Hama itself, and getting dangerously close. Hama has never remotely been overrun by rebels, just much of the provincial countryside. Latest Peto Lucem map (Twitter) shows a bad situation trying to form.

This will be routed, but perhaps not easily. I haven't followed in detail, but will catch up (random prominent link: SyriaDirect report on the advances). In lieu of newsy analysis, some recent history as a backgrounder...

Along the north-eastern immediate front-line area (cropped below), note the villages of Ma'an, Tulaysia, al-Zughba, still holding under government control, but threatened. These (and others, unclear all which) are primarily Alawi (Alawite) villages, maybe sparsely-populated by now, and hopefully with good evacuation plans. The same foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorists have overrun these villages in the past, and it was horrific and genocidal.

In late 2012, as rebels struggled to create the huge green area shown above, they were frustrated by the holdout areas they say hosted attacks on them, as they expanded towards crucial Morek. In mid-December, they launched the "Ma'an Offensive" to take out this and other Alawi towns. Not to sectarian ... it just had to be done - military strategy. Up to December 23, rebels updated us on their push right up to their stated goal. A fighter jet was shot down. Quietly, Islamists showed off videos of dozens of soldiers and local militiamen slaughtered and dumped outside Zughba. But ... Did they ever take Ma'an? They remain vague.

The SOHR heard and reported with some worry that Islamist rebels did overrun and occupy the town, from Dec. 24-26. Rebels don't confirm. A week later, they announced by the way, there was a massacre in Maan on Dec. 25. Rebels had been there but left, and then regime forces came in, and massacred the few Sunnis in town. As reported to Der Spiegel, in Holocaust-sensitive Germany, "members of the Shabiha militia in the village of Maan, in Hama province, have beheaded 23 people." We suspected there was a 2012 Ma'an massacre (ACLOS page), but no one else reported it (the SOHR didn't have this part reported to them).

In February 2014, they did it again, smashing defenses and raising the black Shihada flag over Ma'an, abducting nearly 100 citizens after executing dozens of others in a 2014 Ma'an massacre. About 40 civilians and 20 soldiers were reportedly killed. As usual, they primarily killed fighting age men, every one they could get their hands on. And they usually count from age 13 up, with a vague or non-existent upper end. No massacre there was reported this time. Instead, most of the dead were apparently laundered as victims of two Shabiha massacres in Sunni towns nearby (26 men and an older boy were shot dead in Souran, and all 17 mixed-family killings happened over in Jalama).

A few others got laundered in different ways. They say regime shelling hit a bus near Tamanah (was in northbound, maybe, fleeing from Ma'an on the one axis they left open for civilians to escape by? Maybe.) After it was hit, rebels in the area boarded it and photographed three women they found with heads sliced apart byt eh "shelling," but looking more like the work of a sword. This is the kind of investigative reporting regime-change supporters rely on for their lists of unacceptable regime crimes.

We have no direct proof, but it's likely the 80 or so hostages, mostly women, children, and elderly, were used as raw material for various alleged attacks by government forces over the following months. Notably, almost every fatal chlorine gas attack rebels phoned in during 2014 was nearby and after the Ma'an raid. Allegedly, these attacks managed to kill just members of "displaced" families. In the first case, the chlorine apparently failed, and they say two immediate deaths (a young girl and an old man) actually died of head wounds from the barrel bomb's impact, but they didn't show these wounds to see if they too might be sword-shaped. 

One detailed report explains the 2014 massacre in Ma'an, plus the little-known 2012 massacre there, as we had noted. (SyriaNews.cc) Now in March, 2017, they're pushing forward in the same area, perhaps more savvy, but also more desperate to deal some major blows to their enemies - the people of Syria. Hopefully there won't be a third Ma'an Massacre. But it wouldn't be surprising if there was such a blatant crime against humanity, and if there is, it will be yet more innocent blood crusting the hands of those criminals sponsoring these genocidal gangs of terrorist mercenaries.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Report: Red Flags Across the Red Line

138 Alleged Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria
And 159 Question Marks Over Government Blame

March 4, 2017

The infamous Ghouta alleged sarin attack nearly triggered US military strikes in 2013, by virtue of clearly crossing a "red line" set by president Obama exactly one year earlier. He warned everyone how any use of chemical weapons would (be presumed the work of Syria's government and) likely trigger strikes against the government. And so this threat could also serve as an invitation to rebels, if they were capable: create the impression of 'a regime CW attack,' and you might get the kind of military help recently given to Libya's armed rebellion. Whether it was a failed threat or an accepted offer, innocents started dying regularly in random chemical attacks blamed on the regime, beginning in late 2012 and continuing to the present, over four years on.  

This whole time, western powers and anyone bent on regime change in Syria have have proceeded on the notion that “CW=Assad,” almost by definition. This has from the start (mid-late 2012) flown in the face of some evidence, since grown to undeniable proportions, that rebels were behind at least some attacks. In April 2016, a rebel group (Jaish al-Islam) acknowledged some of their chlorine weapons were used to deadly effect in Aleppo. But some evidence suggests the same group was gassing fugitive religious minorities in the Ghouta area three years earlier, and simply blaming the "regime" for all of it.
These and others feature ignored question marks or red flags which have emerged in the course of research into them. Now  138 alleged attacks (using sarin, chlorine, other or unclear) have been collected, placed in context in time and space in a 6-page table. Each entry has basic details (location, date, poison, broken-down death toll) and identified red flags (marked X, and see definition below) with the briefest notes, and links to some explanation for the curious. 

(sample, from the 2013 section - red = gov blamed, green = rebels blamed, brown = contested)
This includes hopefully all of the major alleged chemical attacks in the Syrian conflict, from 2011 through the end of 2016, and many of the minor ones, excluding those attributed to Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh). Those incidents are likely about as reported, and so of less interest here; to include them here would take too much fresh research and settle too little controversy in the bargain.
The more interesting incidents that are included here are primarily blamed on Syrian government forces or allies, but some claims were lodged by Damascus, complaining the foreign-backed “terrorists” had gassed Syrian soldiers repeatedly (27 alleged instances are included here). The prevalence of those red marks indicate these chemical killings might all be committed by “FSA,” “moderate Islamists,” or Jabhat al-Nusra. This is where the information jihad aspect might be seen playing out in the space between competing claims. ISIS has killed 1,000 with poison gas? Assad is believed to have killed more in a day, once. But 7 flags' worth of evidence suggests “moderates” - using gas chambers - did it on his behalf.
The table is too big to show here - download/view the PDF
- 159 red flags
- 138 Alleged Incidents, from Nov. 17, 2012 to Feb. 9, 2017
-- 109 Attributed to Syrian Gov./allies
-- 27 attributed to opposition forces
-- 2 clearly contested (both sides blame each other)

- Total Fatalities (range):
- Civilian: 612-1,910 (Most variation is with 8-21-2013 Ghouta incident)
- Rebels: app. 84
- Gov/allies: app.128-143

Red flags:
Placed in the form of a red X, these are abundant here, representing signs the author has noted (more are likely to be found) that rebels/terrorists might have been behind the incident. These include attacks on Syrian soldiers (red x on green line) and a red x on a pink line means blamed on the government, but perhaps falsely. These may include deliberate chemical execution (as in gas chambers) of people held prisoner by opposition forces, including soldiers and government loyalists, religious enemies, and rival fighters.
This is a somewhat arbitrary system, but it gives an idea of how widespread and consistent such clues are across this time-line of back-and-forth allegations. The tally: the 138 listed incidents yield 154 red flags between them. So, there are more identified causes for concern with the “CW=Assad” notion than there are reported incidents, even including ones blamed on rebels (but again, not including ISIS).
Causes for red flags, largely noted briefly in the notes/links column, include:

• Government or other credible claim of CW use against soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) or allies, or civilians of minority groups (ex: Khan al-Assal, 3-19-2013, Nawa 4-24-2014, Daraya 2-15-2015, Ishtabraq 4-15-2015, etc.)
• Credible hostage claims (ex: 4-29-2013)
• Hostage evidence: claims the victims are IDPs (internally displaced persons - did they flee, or get kidnapped? Ex: 11-17, 11-23-2012, Hama/Idlib 4-11, 4-18, and 5-22-2014), gender segregation, starvation or torture, etc. (ex: Ghouta 8-21-2013, Jobar 8-20-2014)

• Signs of family targeting: (same killed near in time and space, etc. (ex: Sarmin 3-16-2015), related FSA fighters died together or alongside related civilians (ex: 5-27 and 6-23-2013, 5-3 and 10-31-2015, etc.)
Alternate poisons indicated (ex: 3-16-2015, opiates or such indicated, chlorine reported)
• Chlorine victims who just passed out in their homes and breathed too much, or 'sat there and died' - illogical claim (see here)
• Far too many people died or were reported dead for the opposition's story to make sense (Ghouta, 8-21-2013)
•Proven rebel execution of a survivor of the attack (Ghouta, 8-21-2013)
•Suspect timing (incomplete) – when “Assad” decides to gas people during a UNSC session about just that (ex: 4-16-2015), one year to the day after Obama's red line threat/offer, and as UN CW “inspectors” arrived in the area (ex: Ghouta 8-21-2013)
•The attack coincides with, and was likely coordinated with, another attack that merits red flags.

Also note:•Red flags are not proof that the allegation is false, and many of these likely mean nothing. But these problems are probably too frequent and consistent to ignore the broad pattern.
•The lack of a red flag does not mean the story is just as reported. In fact, considering the prevalence of these causes for concern, it's perhaps safer to presume all of these are suspect, and possibly laundered crimes of opposition actors or, in some cases, simply made up. But let's not presume anything and consider the evidence. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Al-Quds Hospital Blast: An Inside Job?

Adam Larson, aka Caustic Logic
March 1/2, 2017
last adds March 6

This famous subject should need little introduction, but a few basics and a few other details are helpful. This rebel-affiliated hospital in East Aleppo was supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). After an alleged attack of April 27, 2016 it was originally declared by MSF "destroyed by at least one airstrike which directly hit the building, reducing it to rubble." They think it was hit twice; one strike damaged the entrance to the emergency ward, and another 5 minutes later destroyed the emergency room itself and the upper floors at once. It's not clear what kind of munitions were supposedly  used, "barrel bomb," missile, or what. After "recovering bodies from deep under the rubble," it was alleged 55 people were killed. (see ACLOS for more)

By now all agree the building appeared moderately damaged but totally intact at the time, and still does.

Note: the roof is not blown off  - there never was one. That's just a decorative wall around the edge of the roof - see Russian aerial view from April 29. That shows the roof is intact as well. Nothing blew in through the front wall, the side wall, or the roof.  It simply does not seem to have ever suffered a direct air attack. MSF acknowledged Al-Quds was back in operation after 20 days and some repairs. A reasonable conclusion , widely reached, is that the hospital was mildly damaged from a strike to a nearby building, and all else was probably just made up.

moment of detonation as seen in the main hall
This is clear to everyone by now, but it's based on views from the outside. That almost certainly does rule out an external attack, which was the allegation. But it doesn't address the security camera footage from inside the hospital that shows there was a powerful blast. Actually there are three blast scenes from three different cameras, and we'll consider all of them here. But one is most-often referred to (see frames at right, and bigger below).

This was presented as coming from outside, from the air strike. We're to presume this flash (and ensuing plumes of smoke and debris is from an aircraft's weaponry, blasting through this external wall, or coming in that doorway anyway.

But anyone who's bought that should look back above and ask which external wall this flash and blast came through. It couldn't be either, because they're intact. So, if not the outer walls ... what gives here?
How the Precedent Swings
It isn't essential, but helpful, to know from the start about the three previous attacks on the same hospital that were reported by MSF (September report). Twice, they heard (July and August, 2015), government barrel bombs were involved; both were aimed at other buildings, and only caused indirect damage, and caused no injuries. Until April 27, the most deadly incident at the hospital was this earlier and possibly illustrative episode:
  • June 2014 - Gun fire /Kidnapping: A member of an armed group arrived to the hospital and demanded a service that was unavailable at the time. Angered by the refusal of service, the member of the armed group fired shots in the hospital and kidnapped a member of the staff. 1 hospital staff member killed and 1 kidnapped. ...
It seems the unnamed group had the perp's back, and it took a massive strike of sorts by all hospitals in east Aleppo to demand the group hand the hostage back unharmed. It's unclear if that happened.

(note: one later attack is listed in the report: Aug. 14, 2016 Al-Quds and another hospital (Zarzour) were hit the same day, right after al-Quds got its latest MSF supplies, which were likely all ruined and had to be re-sent. )

Presumptions have been that the April attack was more like the 2015 "barrel bomb" attacks. Something else - maybe legitimate - was the target, and al-Quds took some flak. And it may be so in this case, but we may have two answers; it was reportedly hit with two direct attacks. And as we'll see, that answer can't cover the alleged, deadly, and multi-part second strike. And it might not apply at all.

Could this be more like the 2014 incident, but more extreme? Ain Jalout school, a base for Jabhat al-Nusra, was destroyed in a first air strike of the night, just minutes before the hospital, MSF heard. That's too far off to have damaged the hospital, but it was then flooded with their fighters, wounded and maybe frustrated at times ... Something happened. It seems something near the entrance, and the emergency room both blew up. Maybe someone blamed the hospital for a friend's death, for example, shot up the entrance, and threw some grenades into the the E.R.

But even that would fail to explain the evidence we'll consider now. (see also ACLOS talk page where I started this, and will likely continue, besides adding to the front page, etc.)

Dr. Maaz Walks into a Blast?
Among a reported six staff members and some 49 patients and others that were allegedly killed in the attack, the most famous victim is a Dr. Muhamad Maaz. He was said to be the last pediatrician "in Aleppo," meaning rebel-held east Aleppo, until he was killed in the second blast. 

It's said he left the intensive care ward and was about to start his night shift in the emergency room. It's 8:39:05 by time-stamp (the time is apparently off, early by about an hour). The following is important. Note he's seen on three different floors in sequence, down one flight of stairs, then over (around the broken elevator) and down the next. I didn't know floors, so to avoid confusion, I gave them letters - d,c,b, with room for "a" below if needed. It turns out the final hallways is the the main hall, connected to the main entrance we've seen, on the ground floor, so b=1, c=2, d=third floor. 

cnn vid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1Wg-xeUUnY

We've established there were five above-ground levels, plus the walled roof. We also heard from MSF that the second blast destroyed the upper two floors. But that's unproven; they aren't shown at all here among what seems to be the bottom three. (There's probably a basement level or even 2 of them, but that's probably irrelevant.)

The stairwell should always be on the same side of the hall, and it is - the right side. So these cameras are all facing the same way and there's no confusion. (There are 2 stairwells on floor 1, but the one on the left must only go down, as there's no second set on the upper floors)

Maaz  passes floor c, and gets to floor b at 8:40:53, with an awkward step. A guy looks at him. He pauses, adjusts his booties for a long shift, and walks towards camera 13 and towars the main entrance. He turns off-frame at 8:41:02. Then suddenly it's 8:42:12, and flash. Below are two consecutive frames. Between them, digits change too much, and the sliver of a barely-open door in the background disappears (lime green box).

This edit is in both versions of the footage, so it was done before it was handed over to Channel 4 and CNN Arabic (and, it seems, no one else). It's not clear this proves any deception, or just a dramatic cut. It wouldn't be a good deception. News reports tend to say he walks off-frame, and then "moments later," the blast. Is it more like 2 moments, or 70? Maybe they don't want to step on anyone's toes, and don't specify.

The 1:10 is not all missing: 28 seconds is missing, then (earlier in the video sequence) three guys wheel out a person on a gurney (time:8:41:30-8:41:43 - that's after Maaz entered). Then there's 29 second unseen, then the blast. (see blasts timeline below) How this adds up is unclear, but it's established.

This should be emergency room - Dr. Muhammad Maaz was said to be on his way to work there when he died, and MSF heard it hit there, so he must have been there, and that must be it. Whatever it is, there's no video footage from there. It must have all been destroyed? The video New York Times got of the aftermath briefly pans over the other door(s) into the room (between the red and green boxes above), - see 1:43. It has gurneys and seems burned, is all we can say from the quick blur. No photos of it were released.

So, Maaz walks in ... presumably stays ... and after a minute or so a strange blast. Below, see on the left horizontal puffs of smoke through ... the windows of doors on the left, or something in that area, either in or on the other side of that wall.  Then the flash, then the blast wave. This seems to be right on the other side of that left wall and detonating there - the door to the left and those windowed doors likely open on the same room behind that wall. Did someone have a bomb inside the emergency room and detonate it?

Blast on Floor C and the Opposing Blasts Problem
At the same moment, 8:42:12 by time-stamp, there's a blast - presumably the same one - seen on the second floor (c). Camera 5 shows a woman is standing in the corner (top left frame below). First we see light smoke, coming from high, possibly down the stairwell (bottom left frame, and note as the windows shows a new light outside). Depth is hard to read clearly here. But then an odd, small flash occurs, up high somewhere in that same area. Then heavy black smoke rolls in from the right, as the wallpaper is blown off the opposite wall (bottom right), and then a door flings open as smoke billows around. After, the woman is down and still. Later, people are giving her, or someone, blood for their injuries.

Here's the problem: the stairwell is on the right side of the hall in each case. On floor C, the blast comes from the right, the stairwell side (compare to Dr. Maaz's walk above). As shown above, the smoke and apparently the flash on floor b come from the left side. Double-check that if needed. These must be two different blasts, coming from opposite directions, but all at once. 

Logically, there can't be any outside attack from two opposite directions. Whether it's front-and-back or left-and-right, one missile would have to plow through other buildings first before they met in the middle at the same time. And, of course, the other would have to pass through walls that we can see weren't passed through. 

But where else can two different blasts in the same building come from? Maybe ... different rooms? Was this completely an "inside job?"

The External Portion
Now we turn to the third of three blasts seen, providing an exterior aspect. I guess we're supposed to presume this is where the missile or barrel bomb hit. I thank My Home Syria on Youtube for bringing this to my attention (analysis, part 2, about 3 min. in). It seems the same pre-smoking explosion is seen here in front of the hospital. So how does this connect?

Here are two views compared, from the two and only known versions of the footage (CNN Arabic: top, and Channel 4 (UK), bottom (not the best copy, sorry).) Marked in each: the median's near edge, top of the light pole, and a white van parked up against the pole.  The van is visible in the CNN view (an earlier scene). That video doesn't show the important scene. Channel 4's does, but it's obscured under government blame.

I have my reservations, but there's a case to be made this blast lines up just with the back half of that van. For a few frames before, I think we see some little puffs of smoke about there, similar to the pre-blast smoke inside. Then it flashes - first, seems like the van is just glowing, right along its edge. Is that a blast wave?  It's a low light, on that or a similar line (see shrubbery shadows below).

However, the light may be at the wrong angle for that, and the van may remain intact ... more analysis to see if I can figure out how to figure that out. Exact location not set, but it will be approximately in front of the entrance.
(Add 3/2: it seems likely the blast is a bit behind that van, not in it. Earlier, the space behind the van is empty. But later we can't see if anyone pulled in behind after the last footage. If it was a white car, maybe ... I don't see a white car. Could another kind, or none. Maybe the blast is at the entrance, but it's apparently not inside the entrance (the light is very bright and expansive, not narrowed as if shining through a doorway) So, it's an outside blast, but the finer details are unclear so far. It could even be a mortar strike, but it seems to line up very perfectly with these other blasts, and seems similar, so likely, it's something on the ground, and on the same timer).   
After this, the detonation flares again (secondary blast, or just video artifact? It's very quick), and a cloud of smoke and large, amber-colored sparks rise up and swirl on the wind. The color might suggest aluminum particles, like from a missile tube or a vehicle that blew up. Later, we'd see a blown-up and crushed car, and no sign of this van, but the scene needs more analysis to see what makes most sense.

Unlike the others, this blast has started a fire that's still burning five minutes later (see timeline below). Blown-up vehicles will do that.
Add 3-6: Video of the obscured scene - the blast clearly is not in the van, but behind it and closer to, or perhaps at/in the entrance. There may be related objects in the moments before that, small and white, moving around the van. But these are hard to separate for sure from the many blowing dust particles and their related video artifacts (tracers and echoes).
And notes from after the smoke clears (not shown here): we see a van driving off. It may be a different van. The camera has shifted views so we can't see that area. The light has been knocked off its pole and left dangling (as it would be seen the next day). Some apparent power lines, however, were already down. They seem to be laying across the van, and are illuminated there by the flash (see video). 
Inside Job?
At the same moment, the same kind of smoke-then-explosion occurred, probably, then explosion in multiple spots. I have no guess what this is - that's not my area. In my tentative mapping at right, they're clearly in three different spots. The blue line is Dr. Maaz. (also at the top/back is floor 2's hall and window superimposed)

- Outside the entrance is different from inside the E.R., where smoke is coming out the other doors before the blast. So that isn't just an outside bomb shining in here.
- The other one is upstairs and already shown to be unconnected.

Logically, this almost has to be an inside job, by the kind of guy with keys to different rooms. He might have  a grudge, got hooked up with rival jihadists, or helped steal all the money. A guy like that might agree to plant bombs and fake his own death, etc. He may have walked off, dropped a final bomb in a parked car. Or perhaps others helped with some, or all of it.

Maybe it was meant to line up with this video proof to show an outside-to-inside "attack" - at least to the gullible. Because the "air strike" did this deadly and well-coordinated work  all without leaving a mark on the outside walls or roof. It's brilliant! ... sort of. Not really, when you're going to blame an air strike. What were they thinking? We'll never know.

Who were they? We might know that someday soon. One suspect is pretty obvious, but that could be a tricky illusion. Dr. Maaz might just be an innocent victim.

But we don't need to name suspects anyway, just show that it's got nothing to do with the government's much-frustrated efforts to reclaim Aleppo from the occupying terrorists.

How does it line up with a presumably legitimate strike on the Jabhat al-Nusra base minutes before? This was "at exactly 9:37 pm" as HRW heard, and the hospital was hit around 9:45 and 9:50, with a "staff residence" nearby hit in between, around 9:40 (all estimates - only the Nusra base has an exact time.) First, that base was already mostly-destroyed, I hear. It's not clear another strike even made sense. JaN might have blown the remainder themselves, and then continued the "regime attack" into something blame-worthy. And then, if that was a government hit, maybe the terrorists were waiting for it, and launched the follow-on "hospital attack" for them as soon as those bombs fell. That's two ways it could line up fine.

Now let' re-consider the first blast near the hospital. It was just as outside as that apparent coordinated car bomb was. Was it part of the same inside job? If this was pre-planned, odds are slim that something nearby, 5 minutes earlier, was anyone else' plan.

In fact, it might be the trigger to Dr. Maaz it was time for shift change. Everyone else runs around wondering what that was (on the second floor, at 8:37:57 - men go down to look, women stand by). But one floor above, he seems unaware or unconcerned. One minute later (8:39:05), with 3 minutes left before the other half of this "double-tap," he's locking the door, and putting the key in his pocket. To me, this seems strange in itself. He heads down to the ER with his heavy shoulder bag (to die?), passing fairly near the supposedly damaged entrance (with no sign of damage, commotion, or worry, and no sideways glance from the doctor). He acts as if nothing unusual is going on. Then the video record breaks and things get fuzzy.

What about that locked door on the third floor? That floor isn't shown after he leaves it.  It's perhaps exactly above the blast on level 2. Layout suggests the window seen on floor 2 faces the back of the building, maybe on a breezeway between buildings (it must extend further back than it seems relative to the stairwell).

If so, the light must be reflecting off concrete from ... the window of the floor above. The first floor main hall ends in a wall, that's part of the side entrance hallway. So any back window there would not allow light from the ER or entrance-area blasts. It can;t be from 1 (no window), or 2 (no detonation yet), so it must be higher, and apparently just a bit.

So it seems likely there was a third-floor blast of some power. If so, the detonation there was a split-second before this one. So is what we see that blast breaking through the floor, or a separate one rigged up beneath it? This could be a visual minimum of four separately-placed bombs.

Or it could just be three - the difference is pretty minimal. This could still bear more professional scientific and/or criminal investigation to build a legally admissible and unassailable case. But I'm calling it proven already. The al-Quds hospital bombing, blamed on the the Syrian government, was clearly an inside-job, with origins somewhere in the brutal and deceptive culture of terrorist-occupied Syria. It means you can't trust these "activist" sources. It means all the condemnations and demands placed on Syria over this "unacceptable violation" have been misdirected. Will there ever be any furor from the same quarters that's properly directed? I doubt it. Someone else will have to take up this case.

Reference: Blasts timeline
(note: Video time-stamp are off by about (and maybe exactly) one hour from MSF-reported times - refer to fuller CNN Arabic version)
  • interior footage starts 8:37:57, with commotion on floor "c" suggesting a noise outside, nearby, that people are a bit worried about (0:10 in the video). Men go downstairs to investigate, women go back in the rooms. Time estimate for that noise then is about 8:37:30-50. No sign of any damage, smoke etc. inside at this point, from any camera view. (could this be slow reaction to the semi-distant Ain Jalout strike at "exactly 9:37?" Or the first strike at the hospital's entrance? If it's the former, then there's no reaction to any nearer strike. This is the only commotion we see before the blasts inside.)
  • 8:39:05 (video) - Dr. Maaz locks the room on floor "d", then goes downstairs
  • 8:39:35 - external camera shows possible dust from earlier strike blowing on the wind, no new explosions.
  • 8:40:53-8:41:02: floor "b" Dr. Maaz walks into (emergency room?) (1:04 in the video)
  • 8:41:30-8:41:43 - floor "b" patient rolled from (ER?) down the hall, into another door (0:30 in the video)
  • 9:45 (app.): MSF estimates first "direct attack"  on the hospital, damaging the entrance to the emergency room
- second blast(s):
  • 8:42:12 floor "b" - smoke, the big blast (from E.R.?)
  • 8:42:12 floor "c" - smoke, then small blast (from above, stairwell side?)
  • 8:42:12 external - smoke, then a bright, low-level, sparkling blast with no rubble, some smoke (from below, in or by a parked van?)
  • 8:47:02, external -seems the building, or truck, still burning? Bright fire and smoke rising from below.
  • 9:50 (app.): MSF estimates second direct air strike hits emergency room and/or the 2 upper floors