See also my April 24 post, A neuropharmacologist debunks use of sarin in the Khan Shaykhun incident. The evidence presented is staggering when one considers the number of governments and news organizations that have ignored the true symptoms of sarin poisoning.
“We again have a situation where the White House has issued an obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence report."
I thought it was only a matter of days before chemical weapons experts would start punching holes in the White House "intelligence" briefing that SecDef James Mattis used yesterday to rationalize the bombing of a Syrian air base. I was wrong; it turned out that it was a matter of hours.
Sic Semper Tyrannis has published part of a letter that Theodore A. Postol, scientist and Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sent to SST and other media sources in which he lays out his initial comments on the American claims about the chemical incident. But here I'm going to feature the RT news report on Postol's letter because it omits almost all Postol's technical discussion and just succinctly describes his initial conclusions.
For those who want all the technical details first, here is the link to a copy of Postol's letter, uploaded by RT America to Scribd.
There will surely be more from Postol, who was just providing a rapid-response assessment, and from other experts on chemical weapons. But while the U.S. press might be able to hide the truth from the American public for a time, you may trust that Postol's analysis is already the shot heard round world capitals. To understand why, here is a passage from the Wikipedia article about him:
He received his undergraduate degree in physics and his PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT. Postol worked at Argonne National Laboratory, where he studied the microscopic dynamics and structure of liquids and disordered solids using neutron, X-ray and light scattering techniques, along with molecular dynamics simulations . He also worked at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, where he studied methods of basing the MX missile, and later worked as a scientific adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations.
After leaving the Pentagon, Postol helped build a program at Stanford University to train mid-career scientists to study weapons technology in relation to defense and arms control policy.
In 1990, Postol received the Leo Szilard Prize from the American Physical Society. In 1995, he received the Hilliard Roderick Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in 2001, he received the Norbert Wiener Award from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility for "uncovering numerous and important false claims about missile defenses."
On September 28, 2016 the Federation of American Scientists awarded Professor Theodore Postol ... their annual Richard L. Garwin Award for his work in assessing and critiquing the U.S. government's claims about missile defense.One note before I turn to RT's report: the Russian and Syrian governments did themselves no favors by rushing to provide a 'counter-narrative' to the early American claims about the chemical incident. While they knew the Syrian air force hadn't deployed a chemical weapon, it was obvious they weren't sure of just what had happened. That's why they should have waited for the scientists to untangle the situation. I know this approach would have been hard but not half as hard as having to walk back a muddled explanation.
12 April, 2017 17:18
A professor who challenged the 2013 claims of a chemical attack in Syria is now questioning the Trump administration’s narrative blaming the Assad government for the April 4 attack in the Idlib province town of Khan Shaykhun.
On Tuesday, the White House released a declassified intelligence brief accusing Syrian President Bashar Assad of ordering and organizing the attack, in which Syrian planes allegedly dropped chemical ordnance on civilians in the rebel-held town.
The report “contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft,” wrote Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Theodore Postol, who reviewed it and put together a 14-page assessment, which he provided to RT on Wednesday.
“I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun,” wrote Postol.
A chemical attack with a nerve agent did occur, he said, but the available evidence does not support the US government’s conclusions.
“I have only had a few hours to quickly review the alleged White House intelligence report. But a quick perusal shows without a lot of analysis that this report cannot be correct,” Postol wrote.
It is “very clear who planned this attack, who authorized this attack and who conducted this attack itself,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, White House spokesman Sean Spicer also said that doubting the evidence would be “doubting the entire international reporting crew documenting this.”
The report offered by the White House, however, cited “a wide body of open-source material” and “social media accounts” from the rebel-held area, including footage provided by the White Helmets rescue group documented to have ties with jihadist rebels, Western and Gulf Arab governments.
Postol was not convinced by such evidence.
“Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real,” he wrote. “No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it.”
Instead, “the most plausible conclusion is that the sarin was dispensed by an improvised dispersal device made from a 122mm section of rocket tube filled with sarin and capped on both sides.”
“We again have a situation where the White House has issued an obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence report,” he concluded, recalling the 2013 situation when the Obama administration claimed Assad had used chemical weapons against the rebels in Ghouta, near Damascus.
“What the country is now being told by the White House cannot be true,” Postol wrote, “and the fact that this information has been provided in this format raises the most serious questions about the handling of our national security.”
On Tuesday, Russian General Staff spokesman Colonel-General Sergey Rudskoy questioned the “authenticity” of media reports concerning the attack. He said that using social media to reconstruct the course of events raised “serious doubts” not only among the Russian military but also “among many respected experts and organizations.”
Rudskoy noted that, under the 2013 agreement to give up its chemical weapons, the Syrian government destroyed its stockpiles at 10 sites that were under its control. This was verified by the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). However, the remaining two facilities were in territory controlled by the rebels, he said, and it remains unclear what happened to the chemicals stored there.