Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 12, 2020

The rancid politics of the Douma false-flag brigades

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 8:40 pm

Medal of Freedom awardee and Syria false flagger speaks out

Almost a year ago, a group of pro-Assad academics in England organized as the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media and led by the odious Tim Hayward posted a report on their website written by former OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) employee Ian Henderson. It was a highly technical rebuttal to the official report, which concluded that dozens of Syrians living in Douma were killed by gas released from a weaponized chlorine tank dropped by a regime helicopter.

Delivered as a series of bullet points, Henderson’s report concluded:

  1. In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

“Manually placed” could have only meant one thing. Even though Henderson stopped short of stating it, the pro-Assad academics said it for him. This was a “false flag” intended to provoke American intervention. Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, they concluded that jihadis planted the chlorine tanks. Part of the conspiracy also involved killing dozens of Douma residents beforehand just to lend an air of realism to the staged event, like in a Hollywood film: “As we have previously noted, if the Douma attack was staged the only plausible explanation for the deaths of the victims is that they were murdered as captives by the opposition group in control of Douma at the time.” Most recently, one of Hayward’s henchmen went so far as to claim that they used a “gas chamber”. 

Eventually, another “whistleblower” turned up, an ex-OPCW employee first identified as “Alex”. He eventually turned out to be one Brendan Whelan. Like Henderson, Whelan stuck to the technical details that he presented to a conference organized by Wikileaks in October 2019. Wikileaks has also been posting leaked OPCW documents intended to absolve Assad of the Douma chemical attack. As part of the propaganda offensive by Wikileaks, an open letter was signed by former OPCW director José Bustani, Noam Chomsky and Richard Falk. They hoped that  their good names would help draw attention to “alternative hypotheses on how the alleged chlorine munitions came to be found in the two apartment buildings.” It is sad that these model citizens’ reputations will be stained forever by serving such filthy ends.

Grayzone has joined the British academic Assadists and Wikileaks in a tripartite propaganda campaign, posting and commenting on leaked material. As you probably know, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton were well-known opponents of Assad but had a change of heart after Blumenthal had an all-expenses paid trip to Moscow for the purpose of celebrating RT’s anniversary. Once he returned, he started writing articles of the kind that he formerly denounced. Some people believe that he is getting paid by Russia to write propaganda. I have no proof one way or another.

Adding to these fairly high-profile outlets, there are other defenders of Assad who rally around the OPCW leaks. They include individuals like Jonathan Cook and Robert Fisk, as well as websites such as Mint Press, Off-Guardian, Consortium News and Moon of Alabama.

For the most part, the debate around Douma has been focused on technical issues such as whether there was forensic evidence of chlorine gas poisoning or whether the placement of the weaponized chlorine tanks was consistent with a helicopter attack or not. Much of it has been probably far too arcane for the average leftist to absorb. The best of it has originated from Eliot Higgins’s BellingCat or from Brian Whittaker’s articles on https://al-bab.com/. I have written a number of articles myself that are focused on the objective factors that make a false flag unlikely, such as the difficulty of securing weaponized chlorine tanks, but will take a look at Douma from a different angle today.

I want to show how the entire notion of a “false flag” runs counter to the agenda of the Trump administration that could care less about Syrians being gassed. In fact, Douma had been subject to three chlorine gas attacks in 2018 prior to the one that left over 40 people dead. Not a peep was heard from the White House before then. All told, there have been 336 chlorine gas attacks in Syria and 98 percent of them have been linked to the dictatorship.

Only once has the USA retaliated and that was after the attack on Douma in 2018, when Trump authorized a missile attack on buildings in Damascus that were supposedly part of its chemical weapons development program, as well as some air bases. Since chlorine can be purchased by practically anybody involved with sterilizing swimming pools and the like, the missile attack was mostly for show. The Economist reported that the USA contacted Russia in advance just to make sure that it didn’t become collateral damage. NBC News described it as an “empty gesture”, especially since the advance warning allowed the dictatorship to evacuate its war planes and helicopters to safety.

The propaganda offensive around Douma is based on the notion that Donald Trump is bent on “regime change”, whereas in fact he had zero interest in such a project. The only reason he retaliated after the Douma gas attack was to show that the USA was still capable of unleashing a well-orchestrated military offensive even if it was pulling its punches. The false-flaggers fail to acknowledge that Trump never had a problem with Baathist rule in Syria. Unlike George W. Bush, who was determined to topple it in Iraq, Trump never saw Syria as a threat to American interests except perhaps for Iran’s presence.

Keep in mind that Trump marched to the tune of a different drummer. Instead of listening to Max Boot or William Kristol, he was attuned to the commentary on Fox News that is for the most part on the same wave-length as Grayzone, et al. This should be obvious from the red-carpet treatment afforded Max Blumenthal during his appearances on Tucker Carlson’s show. But you might be surprised by how extensive sympathy for Assad was not only on Fox News but other rightwing media voices that Trump took to heart.

Just the other day, Trump awarded Rush Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom. I bet you didn’t know that Rush was a false-flagger in good standing. Here he is in 2013 (as shown in the YouTube clip above) blaming the rebels for using sarin gas on their own supporters in East Ghouta:

And then late last night, early this morning, I run across this piece by Yossef Bodansky. And I look him up, find out who he is, just shared his resume with you, and his story, his article here is that there is evidence, mounting evidence that the rebels in Syria did indeed frame Assad for the chemical attack. But not only that, that Obama, the regime, may have been complicit in it. Mounting evidence that the White House knew and possibly helped plan this Syrian chemical weapon attack by the opposition.

Just four days after the April 7, 2018 Douma attack, Ann Coulter called the experts who blamed Assad a bunch of liars.

Steve Doocy: shares the concerns of Grayzone, et al

Although the name Steve Doocy might not ring a bell, he is one of the hosts of Fox and Friends, the morning talk show that Trump starts his day with. Just a few days after the Douma chlorine attack, Doocy said, “I was reading this morning in Newsweek … that apparently this group called the White Helmets, … there are stories that they staged bodies to make it look like there was a gas attack.”

Glenn Beck, a former Fox TV star who went on to form his own media company called TheBlaze TV, was also caught in the act of  false-flagging. On April 17, 2018 his website posted an article titled “The war machine springs to life over Syria,” a title that sounds like it might have appeared on Grayzone. It stated:

Are these so-called “moderate rebels” morally capable of using poison gas on civilians, children especially? You bet they are. These are proven head-choppers, supported by the US, who have publicly posted numerous videos of themselves beheading children. Morals are not part of their framework or this war.

Plus, the gas war crime certainly serves their interest more than it does Assad’s at this time.

Between the two suspects, it’s far more likely that the increasingly desperate jihadists, who are clearly losing the fight at this point, would use any and every method at their employ to their advantage.

Finally, you have Michael Savage who is probably the most ardent supporter of Donald Trump on talk radio. He, like the others, drew the line on bombing Syria. Here he is in a scathing attack on what he called a “Potemkin raid”:

It was not just the Fox News talking heads that rejoiced in Trump’s repudiation of neoconservative-type warmongering. There were probably hundreds of articles from the left that saw him as a welcome departure from both George W. Bush and Barack Obama interventionism.

Gareth Porter, a perennial false-flagger, wrote an article for Middle East Eye titled “US intervention in Syria? Not under Trump” that was subtitled: “The Trump administration may recognise that the Syrian army is the only institution committed to resisting terrorism in its country.” Specifically:

The US military leadership was never on board with the policy of relying on those armed groups to advance US interests in Syria in the first place.

It recognised that, despite the serious faults of the Assad regime, the Syrian army was the only Syrian institution committed to resisting both al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

It seems likely that the Trump administration will now return to that point as it tries to rebuild a policy from the ashes of the failed policy of the Obama administration.

Dave Lindorff, a long-time contributor to CounterPunch with impeccable anti-imperialist credentials, chimed in as well with an article titled “Trump does something right for once”. It celebrated his announced withdrawal of 3,000 troops from Syria—a bit prematurely. But it did give him credit for at least making such an announcement that included this provocative encomium: “Hell, I’ll be the first to endorse him for a Nobel Peace Prize!”

Although American policy in Syria is still filled with contradictions, there is little doubt that Trump has given Putin carte blanche to have his way. Idlib is being bombed to oblivion, while the Max Blumenthal’s of the world are warning about American intervention being prepped by another false flag.

In yesterday’s Grayzone, there’s an article by the halfwit Aaron Maté that recapitulates all of the false flag themes that have been oozing out of the pores of the pro-Assad “left” for the past two years. One thing in particular caught my eye. He wrote:

Alex revealed that a delegation of three US officials visited the OPCW at The Hague on July 5th, 2018. They implored the dissenting inspectors to accept the view that the Syrian government carried out a gas attack in Douma and chided them for failing to reach that conclusion. According to Steele, Alex and the other inspectors saw the meeting as “unacceptable pressure.” In his statement to the UN Security Council, Henderson confirmed that he attended the meeting.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, they implored? Who authorized them to do so when clearly the Trump administration was well on its way to washing its hands of the entire resistance to Assad. A year before that delegation showed up at OPCW headquarters, Trump had cut off all funding to the rebels as the July 19, 2017 NY Times reported:

President Trump has ended the clandestine American program to provide arms and supplies to Syrian rebel groups, American officials said, a recognition that the effort was failing and that the administration has given up hope of helping to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The decision came more than a month ago, the officials said, by which time the effort to deliver the arms had slowed to a trickle.

It was never publicly announced, just as the beginnings of the program four years ago were officially a secret, authorized by President Barack Obama through a “finding” that permitted the C.I.A. to conduct a deniable program. News of the troublesome program soon leaked out.

In light of all the evidence that Trump has zero interest in a military intervention in Syria of the kind that Obama mounted in Libya, why do Wikileaks, Tim Hayward’s gang and Grayzone continue to act as if it is 2002 and Colin Powell is making speeches about WMD’s in Iraq? After 9 years of asymmetrical warfare in Syria that has included the bombing of hospitals, chemical attacks, the torture and murder of captive rebels by the thousands in Syrian prisons, the starvation siege of places like Aleppo and East Ghouta, these contemptuous apologists for mass murder like Max Blumenthal, Tim Hayward, and Julian Assange flunkies continue to act as if they are heroic antiwar activists and investigative journalists. In fact, they are swimming with the tide. The reality is that they are likely acting on the basest of motives that might include payoffs from the Kremlin and an intoxication with strongmen like Assad and Putin that only a psychiatrist could explain.


  1. According to Mr. Proyect, an acclaimed investigative journalist of unimpeachable integrity like Robert Fisk, who has been based in the Middle East for decades fearlessly exposing the machinations of the Great Powers in that region, or a martyr like Julian Assange, dying in prison for exposing to public scrutiny the dirty secrets of the US security apparatus, are “acting on the basest of motives that might include payoffs from the Kremlin and an intoxication with strongmen like Assad and Putin that only a psychiatrist could explain”. One thing is for sure – it is beyond the intellectual capabilities of Mr. Proyect to explain. No doubt he will resort to more foul-mouthed abuse in response.

    Comment by Henry Porter — February 13, 2020 @ 12:02 am

  2. Fisk is a douche-bag. He toured Douma after the attack in 2018 and concluded that NOBODY died. He went there embedded with Syrian troops, who kept an eye on him when he interviewed locals who understood if they said something in the least bit critical of the dictatorship that they would be tortured or killed. And you have the fucking nerve to defend him.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 13, 2020 @ 12:39 am

  3. It is amazing how Porter-san overlooks the most obvious point of this post: the fact that disgusting assholes like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Steve Doocy, not to mention conspiracy-head websites like Grayzone and Moon of Alabama, repeat the bullshit put out by Assad regime and repeated by those Oh-so-respectable journalists. They may have been respectable at one point. But, you throw away all your credibility the second you side with a mass murderer and provide cover for him. By Porter-san’s logic, Christopher Hitchens must have been right to support the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    And of course the real bullshit that I can’t get over is that these guys don’t even get into the most obvious fact when it comes to Syrian people’s uprising and the subsequent civil war: the fact that Assad is the biggest mass murderer of ‘his own’ people in Syria, having killed (with the help of outsiders) 90% of the dead. Nobody disputes that, yet support for Assad is deemed the most “anti-imperialist” gesture. Russian imperialism? What imperialism? Iranian regional expansion? It’s their ‘backyard’; they have a right to invade their neighbors.

    What a bunch of hypocrites.

    Comment by Reza — February 13, 2020 @ 1:43 am

  4. Mr. P.,

    Robert Fisk reported his conversations with eyewitnesses in Douma as he found them. That is the job of a journalist. Many journalists are “embedded” in war zones on either side – with jihadist headchoppers roaming around it would be difficult for journalists to visit these areas without being “embedded” in some way. Your attempts to portray Fisk as some sort of roving propagandist for the Baathist regime betray your own insecurities about the narrative You are promoting. You don’t know why the locals told him what they did – given the choice between eyewitness reports from a credible journalist on the ground and your lurid hypotheses about his underlying motivations I think I know which one to lend more credence to.

    As for Reza – guilt by association is a discredited principle of jurisprudence – and so it should be for debate. The fact that some wackos back Assad does not mean that anyone who questions the dominant mainstream interpretation of the conflict should be designated a wacko. The fact that some “anti-imperialists” are Assadist, or anri-semites, or whatever, does not transfer their guilt to anyone who opposes the dominant imperialist narrative. Don’t put words into other people’s mouths and don’t project your own insecurities onto others – no one here said anything about Russian imperialism or Iranian regional expansion except you.

    Comment by Henry Porte — February 13, 2020 @ 10:27 am

  5. I nominate Louis Proyect for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his tireless beating of a dead horse.

    Comment by Janet Avery — February 13, 2020 @ 12:13 pm

  6. Janet, a little less stupidity, if you don’t mind.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 13, 2020 @ 12:36 pm

  7. Here’s my take on Fisk’s reporting at Douma from April 2018.


    Comment by louisproyect — February 13, 2020 @ 12:43 pm

  8. “…an acclaimed investigative journalist of unimpeachable integrity …`”

    Rush Limabugh is “acclaimed.” Sean Hannity is “acclaimed.” Trump is unimpeachable. That fraud Obama won the Nobel Prize.

    What the fuck does this asslicking nonsense even mean? Groveler.

    Then we start talking about facts and evidence and “gullt by association.”

    But what about accliam by association.

    It’s all fucking superthermite..

    Proyect is so right about this it isn’t even funny.

    Now purse your smug, stupid lips and get all snippy about this, Porte. Your kind are destroying the left.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 13, 2020 @ 3:48 pm

  9. accliam > acclaim

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 13, 2020 @ 3:50 pm

  10. accliam = acclaim

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 13, 2020 @ 3:53 pm

  11. Porter-san,

    Nice evasion. Where is Fisk’s impassioned article after article covering the bombing of hospitals and schools by Assad regime? I’d love to see a few of those. He’d have a bit more credibility if he had tried as hard to expose Assad regime’s crimes against humanity as the supposed ‘false flag’ operation by deranged jihadis.

    And by the way, the only sources of information on Syria are NOT just Fisk et. al or Mr. Proyect. Lots of Syrians also report on their own miserable situation. You (and Fist et. al) may want to lend some credence to *them*!

    Fisk is a hypocrite and so are you for picking up and carrying water for Fisk.

    Comment by Reza — February 13, 2020 @ 3:55 pm

  12. I’m not sure how this turned into a discussion of the honour of Robert Fisk, but since that’s where we are: I too was an admirer of Fisk’s reporting from Iraq(although his book on Lebanon seemed to be too much about himslef rather than the country.) and my reaction when I heard that he was going to embed with the Syrian army was “Good – it could be useful to get a critical perspective from a different angle.” Little did I expect that Fisk would not only accept the Syrian army’s umbrella but also its narrative. We can see how that worked out here: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/syria-dispatches-robert-fisks-independence/ When reporting from a country like Syria its not enough to report your conversations “as you find them” – you also have to question whose voice is speaking through them. There’s a long list of journalists who have fallen foul of that error and a not so long list of those who have had the nous to avoid it. Fisk is one of the former.

    Comment by BrianS — February 13, 2020 @ 4:32 pm

  13. When you hear the word “honor,” reach for a weapon. You are about to be robbed.

    But this discussion was teed off by Porter, or whatever his name is, professing indignation that anyone would question the veracity of “an acclaimed investigative journalist of unimpeachable integrity like Robert Fisk.” That’s not exactly honor but it is “the bauble reputation” which is essentially the same BS. What a load of crap.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 13, 2020 @ 9:24 pm

  14. If Porter actually did more research on the U.S role in the conflict he would realize that the U.S paved the way for Assad’s victory in Syria by putting in power a Shia government in Iraq who is loyal to Iran. This has enabled Russia and Iran as most of Russia’s and Iran’s conquest of Syria flows through Iraq. If he looked deeper into U.S arms for the rebels we would realize that the U.S is limiting the number of weapons coming in from third-party transfers preventing their victory. The U.S is also doing business with Rosoboronexport Russia’s chief arms supplier, who is sending most of Russia’s arms for the Assad regime.

    Comment by Mauricium — February 14, 2020 @ 7:07 am

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