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Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Family Killed Ahead of Schedule

Ghouta Chemical Massacre
The Family Killed Ahead of Schedule
August 27, 2017
last edits Aug. 27

At the recent 4-year anniversary of the 2013 Ghouta chemical massacre, many reminded us of the unsettled bill and the continued need for "accountability" of the regime-change sort. For example, Bethan McKernan at the UK Independent passes on the lingering pain of the victims. One man said  "the more time passes without any accountability or seeing these attacks stop, the more and more painful it gets," complaining that "we are not treated like humans by the wider world or the regime.”

Indeed, there's still been no punishment, in the form of regime change, for President Assad gassing 1,700 innocent people to death with crude rockets dispersing impure "kitchen-grade" sarin, after inviting UN-OPCW inspectors in to watch from a few kilometers away... Well, clearly they don't mention some aspects as they urge you to never forget the big picture. 

Another of the many things they won't know or say is how 8-9 of those victims, apparently a family, were all killed at least 2 days before the alleged sarin rockets fell. Interestingly, these are the only victims we get to see where they were allegedly killed by the gas early on August 21. But they were actually violently murdered a few days before the incident, and then arranged here as props to help prove the incident. It's true they weren't treated as humans.

The evidence at hand is stomach-churning besides tragic. I have to explain and show it now, but I'll refrain from showing more than is necessary.
Paul McKiegue, a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics, recently published at Tim Hayward's blog  an analysis of the recent Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack and how to (semi-)scientifically compare the competing claims. As background, he considered the Ghouta incident it bears so many similarities to, noting how - of hundreds of people said to be killed and found in their homes or out in the streets - just one scene shown to prove that claim. He writes:
From the alleged chemical attack in Ghouta, a “dog did not bark” observation is that despite the mass of stills and video clips uploaded that showed victims in hospitals or morgues, no images have appeared that showed victims being rescued in their homes or bodies being recovered from affected homes. The only images from Ghouta purporting to show victims being found where they had collapsed were obviously fraudulent, showing nine alleged victims of chemical attack dead in the stairwell of an unfinished building named the “Zamalka Ghost House” by researchers.
That was our early work at A Closer Look On Syria. This was the first smoking gun seam we discovered within weeks of the Ghouta massacre. There may be scenes I don't recall, but of the hundreds actually killed that night, we see little to no sign of them dying inside homes as alleged. As far as I know, McKiegue is correct that this scene is the entire category. And as we both wonder, this might be because they died in centralized gas chambers instead. And there's some good evidence that's just what happened. (Note: this same problem of no in-home rescues applies with Ghouta II, the Khan Sheikhoun incident in 2017, with the same possible implications.)

The Ghost House
In this case, it's not their home the victims were just found in, but a large and empty, unfinished, 5-story apartment building  (location found by scenery analysis: 33º31'31.11” N, 36º21'43.24” E). "Zamalka Ghost House" is not such a great name, in that it's not specific; most buildings here were vacant by this time. But it's haunted now by this case.

It seems some people in the videos tried to claim this was the family's home, but the consensus is that they ran here for shelter after being out in the street. 

In the video: Entire Family Killed by Chemical Weapons attack on Damascus (still available in 2017), a large and excited entourage, frequently declaring Allahu Akbar, they come along the west side of the building, from the north, in late afternoon, they say of August 22 - so about 38-42 hours after the alleged sarin attack. They enter at the southwest corner stairwell. All views of the surroundings are to the west, and all victim shown are in or quite near this stairwell, evenly spaced all the way up.

It turns out this is also the approximate site of alleged sarin rocket impact #6, the dud through the wall, as shown above. That landed just meters from the ghost house's northeast corner - so opposite of where this family would have been. So a direct relation between these is not the clearest (records suggest a wind to the southeast prevailed, suggesting they would be safe from this plume, but there were other alleged plumes, and it's all alleged and hypothetical). 

The rocket impact #6 next to this is not quite mapped by Human Rights Watch in their map, corrected at right compared to 5 well-placed impacts and one possibly placed, 4 of which they either missed or misplaced (#6 is on the right). This omission or error comes despite HRW's taking this video as evidence from one of their sources, in support of the claim of finding bodies days later (as would naturally happen). (ACLOS) Bodies found in homes, bodies found for days - two important claims, and this scene is basically the whole evidence for both of them. As we'll see, that's a very bad sign.

The Victims
I can verify from video 8 bodies for the reported nine victims found at the scene -  a man, two women, a baby girl, an older girl about 8, three boys aged 5-10 range. The following gory details and images are somewhat optional; overview beneath tries to condense it. For each entry, victim ref #, video time, location, notes, including decay level (1-5, 5 being the worst seen).

M1: At 0:40 a man on the 2nd floor with a huge pool of blood near his head, perhaps the most decayed victim; badly discolored with reddish-purple skin all over, especially where the sun has had time to burn. There's slight body bloating, with a massively bloated face with puffed-up eyes and a swollen tongue protruding. Interestingly, he has apparent hole in his lower throat, in the middle just above the collarbone (bullet-sized? 9mm?). (this may let gas escape, limiting the body bloating). He has skin peeled from side of the belly (covered here), possibly from torture, or in handling after some decay had loosened it. By the amount of blood (there will be more than it seems, soaked down into that thick dust), he was likely killed right here, but likely dragged a bit while still bleeding. Decay level 5. He alone wears shoes (appears to be loafers, on a bit loose - perhaps what he was wearing, and perhaps added later by people with too few spare shoes - see composite below).

W1: at 1:08 on the stairs to floor 3, a woman in a heavy black winter coat (in late August), with blood from mouth and nose, so likely shot or stabbed in the abdomen somewhere - it rolled to the side, when she was arranged differently. Also, lack of much blood from the sliced left forearm suggests she was dragged here shortly after she was killed. (or did the skin there just split during the carrying? That's not blood on the stairs, is it? It's a chunk of tissue that casts a shadow) Despite the house being completely covered in loose plaster and the dust of war, her clothes are free of dust; Barefoot, but with a pair of sandals just inches from each foot. Possibly hers that fell off, or just laid there for effect (or because they didn't fit on her swollen feet?). Some dust on the side of right foot, soles not clear. Decay level 4 - arm is decayed worse than it looks here, but that's a wound. Hands and feet are purple, but lower (red blood cells sink in time - livor mortis). Her face isn't discolored, because it's up, and has largely drained of heavier red blood cells (pallor mortis), but her body seems bloated, her face is, and eyes are quite swollen, and perhaps leaking blood. This is odd.

B1: at 1:20, 3rd floor: boy, arms and head hanging over the top step, just above W1. He has lots of blood from head/mouth pooling on the top step.  By blood quantity, he was likely killed there. Decay level 5 - skin all purple, seen flipped over in a later video, his face is nearly black, and his eyes have bulged clear out of their sockets (partly just from hanging like this), and a swollen tongue sticks out of his mouth - blood from mouth/nose... barefoot, with no footwear seen nearby.

W2: 1:30 in the entrance to a side-room on 3, a woman in heavy winter coat, torn, with layers beneath. barefoot, purple, swollen face, puffy eyes, blood or bloody fluid from mouth, nose, eyes (seen more in a later view). Decay level: 4. barefoot, with no footwear seen nearby.

G1: baby girl, laid next to W2. - possible "foam" near mouth, blood from nose, no injuries visible. The dust on her clothing, flattened face and bent arms say she was left with face and palms down, elbows up, for some time, then arranged here.  (it was somewhere dusty like here, and that's dust, not foam, on her face). The red face could just be livor mortis, red settling low after death, as if face-down. Her bent arms suggest rigor mortis, which peaks 10 hours after death and then the body loosens within about 24 hours, or faster yet with small children. So with frozen eblows, and knees, nearing sunset on the 22nd, she must have died more recently than the others, like evening of the 21st, and was added to the scene before the video shoot. Also note she's not bloating in the body, face, or eyes, and not purple colored - she's pink like the freshly dead - perhaps even too red like the Kafr Batna victims (see Denis O'Brien, Murder in the SunMorgue, still available at Scribd, even as O'Brien's site has expired). Not as relevant for a baby, she's barefoot, with no footwear seen nearby.

B2: at 1:46 on the landing before 4th floor is a younger boy in a black-and-yellow shirt. He's laid face-down, with lots of blood from the face area- a large puddle sugg killed here, but  it seems dried at least 2-3 days -  possible cheek scrapes - skin on  legs appear sort of sun burnt, probably more than 1.5 day's worth - , decay level unclear: little discoloration, but seen rolled over, he has severe swelling of this left cheek, dark veins, and a swollen tongue sticking out of his mouth Barefoot, with no footwear seen nearby.

B3: 2:34 4th floor or roof? a bloated and sun-darkened boy, blood from the mouth and nose, extra-dark and possibly bruised face - flattened nose, seemingly beyond the pulled-flat effect that can come with bloating - swollen eyes, with one far worse - possible eye damage, blood from eyes across, or perhaps a wound to, the bridge of his nose. He might have been beaten in the face. Decay level 4. Little or no blood on site suggests he was killed elsewhere. Bright green Christiano Ronaldo t-shirt has the left sleeve torn off (during a futile struggle with the sarin, perhaps?) Barefoot, with no footwear seen nearby. Little to no dust one the soles of his feet (one heel and one set of toes seem lightly dusted).

G2: 3:00 at the top of the stairs, a  girl of about 7, yellow Hello Kitty shirt  - but massive thick blood and copious whitish goo (too much and too weird to be natural?) seems forced from her mouth and nose well after death (as if her body was full of this mess, and someone stepped on her belly?). Similar flattened nose to B3. Advanced dark decay in the veins, causing gray-brown color, but no notable bloating (maybe she was bloated until someone stepped on her belly?). Her eyes are also not puffed out, like most, but she has a possible ring of white residue around them. Decay level: 4.  little or no blood on site, suggesting she was killed elsewhere. Barefoot, with one adult-sized sandal laid near her head. Little to no dust one the soles of her feet.

Bloating, discoloration, etc. is most consistent with about five days worth of decay, that must have begun prior to the alleged sarin attack less than 2 days before the videos are taken. Clearly, they were killed separately and prior to that event.

At last the man, M1, was likely killed on-site, but mostly the bodies seem arranged here after a killing somewhere else. Some apparent differences in decay might prove later planting, or not - only the baby G1 is clear in a difference, appearing dead perhaps too late to be a victim of the attack (rigor mortis persisting late on the 22nd).

This suggests at least two, and perhaps three phases of planting. First M1 was killed, perhaps with B1, W2, B3, and G2 killed and/or planted later. Then perhaps W1, and B2 were added, and last G1 was laid in place to complete the entire and growing "family." This is elaborate scene management with no regard for truth or humanity. And if any of this stairwell staging was done before the 21st (unclear but possible), it was by people with foreknowledge; they knew evidence would soon be needed for a story with poison gas people would die trying to escape.

Burial Video
Some views suggest a later-yet viewing of the same bodies in the same building, with slightly more decay, in a video posted only on August 28. But that could be the higher resolution (focus is W1's arm wound). And another video: East Ghouta 22-8-2013 Unidentified children were found to be chemical victims uploaded on the 23rd and dated 22nd, shows G1, B1, and B2 are carried on a rug to a small trench. The rest are seen piled on pickeup truck nearby, ready for burial. The rug is then dragged over the edge, and so the kids are summarily rolled into it, with possible disdain (right: rug waving and dust rising as they land down there). So they were removed and buried either later on the 22nd or at least before that video upload at (UTC): 10:53:53 - almost 2 am on the 24th in Syria. So it's possible they were left for another day before being dumped on the 23rd, but more than likely it's all the 22nd like they say. It doesn't matter greatly.

Poison Signs?
These icky signs of decay are not the work of any chemical I know of. CRBN expert Dan Kaszeta, otherwise favored to accept opposition claims of just this sort, decided these people were killed by "conventional munitions." (via Matthew Asheville here). But that seems true only if we take it as meaning guns and knives killed them, not bombs and definitely not sarin nerve agent.

It's also not the effects of fuel-air explosive or or "vacuum bomb," as Ashville argued. However, it's possible the actual deaths or some injuries before the decay were caused by the blast wave and suction effect of an FAE blast, or with some poison. 

The purple color we see could be cyanosis, a blue shift in the skin caused by some poisons or conditions that lead to low blood oxygen. But at least in part it's the darkening of decay, as blood vessels burst and bacteria spread, since it comes with the other signs like bloating. The bleeding  eyes are more unusual; they don't seem violently gouged (eyelids all intact), so possibly some chemical exposure that burns the eyes and airways  - that could cause bleeding from the eyes, nose and mouth, and damaged eyes would decay and swell quicker than usual.

One chemical that causes tissue damage and cyanosis is chlorine. Depending on impurities, nasty terrorist sarin, with its noted caustic effects, would cause these things to some degree. But of course to be this decayed, they had to have been poisoned well before those alleged sarin rockets fell. Further, some poured out probably too much blood for this to the whole story, and M1 at least was probably killed in the end by a gunshot to the throat.

In the video we can also see buzzing flies, but interestingly, no maggots I can see. There should be sizeable day-old ones, with this much decay. That could mean a real release of sarin or similar in the last day or two. But the sarin attack couldn't kill these people before it happened, although it - or an early planting, or other release of sarin or similar nerve agent - might have killed the first maggots that had hatched on their bodies.

Murdered Hostages?
Possible poison clues aside, we can ascertain violent murder as obvious in one case (M1), almost obvious in 2 others (W1, B2), and likely in the rest. We can see their bodies dragged into place to tell a fictional story, suggesting little respect for the victims (they're used as props, simple things). Those false stories had the effect of concealing the violent massacre. Therefore, the activists blaming Assad (and they're all Islamists) are also concealing brutal crimes (probably by allied Islamists). It clearly happened at least on this scale, and possibly on a much larger scale, like the entirety of the Ghouta massacre.

The heavy winter coats worn by the woman and the bare feet tell a different story. Who would keep a huge coat nearby or on year-round, even in late August? The homeless, with nowhere to hang it, for example. Or hostages, whose home is a cramped basement with no storage. If the captors are Islamist, women might be required to cover up with the longest, blackest thing they have in their closet before they're taken to their new home.

And who goes around barefoot in a war zone? People who might put on a long coat because it really was chilly at 2 am? No. Hostage who don't go walking around? Maybe. Or those about to be executed; Islamists often make them take off their shoes first, and their bodies would keep not having them if they were carried around from there.

Or, as we're told, at the 2 am attack, these unidentified victims got (or were?) dressed, some with coats but no shoes because of the chill or the rush, ran or were outside, "found this abandoned building and they ran up to the upper levels," without getting any of that deep dust covering every step on their bare feet?

More Massacre Marketing
Returning to the story-telling, where none of this was mentioned... The Douma-based, Saudi-supported genocidal Islamists of Liwa al-Islam manages this area and probably all its massacres and concealing stories (see here for some info on them and their crimes).  German blogger Urs1798 notes among those documenting this scene, a certain team of "activists" from Harasta or Douma  (see ACLOS) who have previously passed off terrorist massacres of their hostages as regime crimes (see Douma Hostage Massacre for an obvious case).

ITV News (UK) has videos, including these victims, that was re-used by CNN at least. An Islamist activist (camera-friendly variety: lightly-bearded, western-dress) at another alleged impact site describes the Ghost House victims and gives their story as if he saw it himself. He tells ITV how he learned a gas attack had happened and, as translated "more shelling started. Then I fell on the stairs and was unconscious." He had friends as was saved, but this helps show how people around there fall unconscious, especially on stairs! In case you don't believe the story he was about to tell, this is supposed to help grease it along.

He explains next how some stair-fallers weren't so lucky. According to warnings broadcast from the local mosque, the man says, these people and others sought higher ground to escape the heavy cloud of nerve agent. "They found this abandoned building and they ran up to the upper levels, but they were already affected. So those people died while they were trying to go up. Today we found them here."

"The next morning we found each family in their home as they were, dead in each house," he says. None but this one batch is shown. "All had foaming at the mouth, and some from the eyes. Some had blood from their ears." Blood from the ears/head/neck wounds, and blood from the mouth and nose that he didn't mention, and discoloration and bloating he didn't include, are not sarin symptoms. But they are seen in this set of victims, so he goes ahead and claims them in this case. (In the frame above, he's indicating "foam" from the eyes like G2 and perhaps others display.) Probably unlike the many other cases he claims, these 8 victims had that foaming/bleeding problem and fell on stairs - the very things he's careful to explain as effects of the regime poison attack. So they show us only this scene, and it seems his whole story is geared towards explaining just this one scene; even his own mind it seems to be a transparent stand-in for the vague "many others." Noted.

"We found more than 40 bodies since yesterday and the search is still on. If you come with us we can show you more," the same man continues. He says he helped bury - and explain? - more than 150 bodies, and he has more on hand to show. What role could he have in so many burials is unclear - he might have had a small hand in that total, or he might be overseeing the work of whole teams. We know only some of the coverup was with dirt, and some with words. His hands aren't dirty, but he's talking.

Another man working with him, shown at right at the nearby rocket impact, told ITV "After the chemical attack yesterday we found the remains of this rocket here today," at the same time they first found the ghost house victims. This rocket is one of what he's sure are 12 total they they heard impact, albeit in a less noisy manner than usual. He explains "We witnessed all those people who were martyred and the physical effects it had on people. We opened many houses in this area and we found the families dead." But apparently none of these scenes were filmed, and this second-day effort in a vacant building was the best they could manage, by way of a stand-in.  

It stretches the imagination that these guys in a war zone could honestly mistake putrefaction for indicators of sarin or of whatever unclear mix of poisons was actually used for the Ghouta massacre. If they had seen many of the same bodies we have, they should know these were atypical signs at any rate. They should have seen many dead people and animals by then, and probably could not fail to recognize the work of body decay. It's their more insulated audience they were presuming would have no clue.

These guys with the short beards had to know they were trying to pass off a days-old massacre. In the video we can also see buzzing flies (but interestingly, no maggots as noted), and a lot of plugged noses and waving hands as they examine the bodies. People wouldn't stink like that just 1.5 days after death.

What the activists add in explanation just adds to the shadiness of this picture. The "entire family killed by sarin" story - alone, as far as I know - holds up one central claim of this crime of the century. That's the claim that people in the general public were killed in this chemical strike on civilian areas. That claim collapses; we have no evidence people were gassed at home or at liberty on the streets to run and collapse where they chose.

This evidence was meant to be the example to prove others died the same way. If we go ahead and do that now, we should expect this: the rest of the x-hundred victims were murdered by Islamist captors, probably in a few centralized gas chambers, and then arranged in other settings (allied clinics and morgues, but not in houses or on the street or even in this ghost house), and used as props to support the fake "Assad sarin attack" conspiracy theory.

We opened with Bethan McKernan who wrote recently, in acceptance the unsupported opposition narrative of Ghouta: "Syrian, Russian and far-right and far-left conspiracy claims that it was a “false flag” attack by the rebels have been thoroughly debunked." I just wanted to be ironic and symmetrical by closing with that totally unfounded statement.

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