A U.S. weapons inspector has debunked claims that Syria possesses chemical weapons, warning that Washington is about to hold out an assault on a sovereign nation primarily based on no exhausting proof.
William Scott Ritter Jr. was a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He was one of many grounder-breakers in creating on-site inspection methods and methodologies.
In keeping with Ritter, within the following Flashpoints Radio interview with Dennis Bernstein carried out on April 23rd, US, British and French claims that the Syrian Authorities used chemical weapons in opposition to civilians final month seem like completely bogus.
Dennis Bernstein: You could have been talking out not too long ago about the usage of chemical weapons in Syria. May you define your case?
Scott Ritter: There are loads of similarities between the Syrian case and the Iraqi case. Each international locations possess weapons of mass destruction. Syria had a really massive chemical weapons program.
In 2013 there was an incident in a suburb of Damascus referred to as Ghouta, the identical suburb the place the present controversy is going down. The allegations have been that the Syrian authorities used sarin nerve agent in opposition to the civilian inhabitants. The Syrian authorities denied that, however because of that incident the worldwide neighborhood bought collectively and compelled Syria into signing the Chemical Weapons Conference, declaring the totality of its chemical weapons holdings, and opening itself to be disarmed by inspections of the Group for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Russia was chosen to be the guarantor of Syria’s compliance. The underside line is that Syria had the weapons however was verified by 2016 as being in 100% compliance. The totality of Syria’s chemical weapons program was eradicated.
On the identical time that this disarmament course of was going down, Syria was being engulfed in a civil warfare which has resulted in a humanitarian disaster. Over a half million folks have died. It’s a warfare that pits the Syrian authorities in opposition to a wide range of anti-regime forces, a lot of that are Islamic in nature: the Islamic State, Al Nusra, Al Qaeda. A few of these Islamic factions have been within the neighborhood of Ghouta since 2012.
Earlier this 12 months, the Syrian authorities initiated an offensive to liberate that space of those factions. It was very heavy combating, hundreds of civilians have been killed, with huge aerial bombardment. Authorities forces have been prevailing and by April 6 it appeared as if the militants have been getting ready to give up.
Out of the blue the allegations come out that there was this chemical weapons assault. It wasn’t a huge chemical weapons assault, it was dropping one or two so-called “barrel bombs,” improvised units that contained chlorine fuel canisters. In keeping with the militants, between 40 and 70 folks have been killed and as much as 500 folks have been made ailing. The USA and different nations picked up on this, saying that this was proof optimistic that Syria has been mendacity about its chemical weapons program and that Russia has been behind Syria’s retention of chemical weapons. That is the case the US made to launch its missile strike [on April 14].
There are loads of issues with this situation. Once more, why would the Syrian authorities, in the intervening time of victory, use a pinprick chemical assault with zero navy worth? It added nothing to the navy marketing campaign and invited the wrath of the West at a essential time, when the rebels have been begging for Western intervention.
Many, together with the Russian authorities, consider that this was a staged occasion. There was no exhausting proof put ahead by anybody that an assault occurred. Shortly after allegations of the assault got here out, the complete city of Douma was taken over by the Syrian Military whereas the rebels have been evacuated.
The locations that have been alleged to have been attacked have been inspected by Russian chemical weapons specialists, who discovered zero hint of any chemical compounds weapons exercise. The identical inspectors who oversaw the disarmament of Syria have been mobilized to return to Syria and do an investigation. They have been supposed to begin their work this previous weekend [April 21-22]. They arrived in Damascus the day after the missile strikes occurred however they nonetheless haven’t been out to the websites. The USA, France and Nice Britain have all admitted that the one proof they’ve used to justify this assault have been the images and videotapes despatched to them by the insurgent forces.
I’ve nice concern about the US finishing up an assault on a sovereign nation primarily based on no exhausting proof. The longer we wait, the longer it takes to get inspectors onto the location, the extra claims we’re going to get that the Russians have sanitized it. I consider that the very last thing the US needed was inspectors to get on-site and perform a forensic investigation that might have discovered that a chemical assault didn’t in reality happen.
DB: It’s type of like cleansing up a police crime scene earlier than you test for proof.
SR: The USA didn’t truly bomb the location that was attacked. They bombed three different amenities. One was within the suburbs of Damascus, a serious metropolitan space. The generals mentioned that they believed there have been portions of nerve agent there. So, in a constructing in a densely populated space the place we consider nerve agent is saved, what will we do? We blow it up! If there had in reality been nerve agent there, it could have resulted in lots of and even hundreds of deaths. That indisputable fact that no person died is the clearest proof but that there was no nerve agent there. The USA is simply winging it, making it up.
One of many tragedies is that we will now not belief our navy, our intelligence providers, our flesh pressers. They are going to manufacture no matter narrative they should justify an motion that they deem to be politically expedient.
DB: Isn’t it additionally the case that there have been issues with the allegations regarding Syria utilizing chemical weapons in 2013 after which once more in 2015? I consider The New York Occasions needed to retract their 2013 story.
SR: They put out a narrative about hundreds of individuals dying, claiming that it was positively achieved by the Syrian authorities. It turned out later that the variety of deaths was far decrease and that the weapons programs used have been in all probability within the possession of the rebels. It was a case of the rebels staging a chemical assault in an effort to get the world to intervene on their behalf.
The same situation unfolded final 12 months when the Syrian authorities dropped two or three bombs on a village and all of a sudden there have been experiences that there was sarin nerve agent and chlorine fuel wafting via the village, killing scores of individuals. Videotapes have been taken of useless and dying and struggling folks which prompted Trump to intervene. Inspectors by no means went to the location. As an alternative they relied upon proof collected by the rebels.
As a weapons inspector, I can inform you that chain of custody of any samples which might be for use within the investigation is an absolute. You must be on the website when it’s collected, it must be licensed to be in your possession till the laboratory. Any break within the chain of custody makes that proof ineffective for a authentic investigation. So we’ve proof collected by the rebels. They videotaped themselves finishing up the inspection, carrying coaching fits that might not have protected them in any respect from chemical weapons! Like virtually every thing having to do with these rebels, this was a staged occasion, an act of theater.
DB: Who has been supporting this explicit group of rebels?
SR: On the one hand, we’ve the precise fighters, the Military of Islam, a Saudi-backed fundamentalist group who’re terribly brutal. Embedded inside the fighters are a wide range of Western-trained and Western-funded NGOs such because the White Helmets and the Syrian-American Medical Society. However their major focus isn’t rescue, within the case of the White Helmets, or medical care within the case of the Syrian-American Medical Society, however reasonably anti-regime propaganda. Most of the experiences that got here out of Douma originated with these two NGO’s.
DB: You talked about “chain of custody.” That’s what was most ridiculous about sending in inspectors. The very first thing you’d need to do is set up chain of custody and nail down the crime scene.
SR: I used to be a participant within the Gulf Conflict and we spent the majority of that warfare conducting a large aerial marketing campaign in opposition to Iraq. I used to be one of many individuals who helped provide you with the goal listing that was used to assault. Every goal needed to have a goal.
Let’s look what occurred in Syria [on April 14]. We bombed three targets, a analysis facility in Damascus and two bunker amenities in western Syria. It was claimed that each one three targets have been concerned with a Syrian chemical weapons program. However the Syria weapons program was verified to be disarmed. So what chemical weapons program are we speaking about? Then US officers mentioned that one among these websites saved sarin nerve agent and chemical manufacturing tools. That could be a very particular assertion. Now, if Syria was verified to be disarmed final 12 months, with all this materials eradicated, what are they speaking about? What proof have they got that any of this materials exists? They only make it up.
If I had been a member of that inspections crew, I’d have been in a position to inform you with 100% certainty what occurred at that website. It wasn’t that way back that the allegations occurred, there are excellent forensic methods that may be utilized. We might have the ability to reverse engineer that website and inform you precisely what occurred when. Let’s say an inspection crew had gone in and we discovered that there was sarin nerve agent. Now, the US authorities can say, there may be not purported to be any sarin nerve agent in Syria, subsequently we will state that the Syrians have a covert sarin nerve agent functionality. However nonetheless you don’t know the place it’s, so now you must say we assess that it may be on this bunker.
We bombed empty buildings. We didn’t degrade Syria’s chemical weapons functionality. They removed it. We have been among the many nations that licensed that they’d been disarmed. We simply created this phantom risk out of nothing in order that we may assault Syria and our president could possibly be seen as being presidential, as being the commander in chief at a time when his credibility was being attacked on the house entrance.
DB: Wonderful. That helps make clear the state of affairs. After all, it additionally leaves us terrified as a result of we’re so distant from the reality.
SR: As an American citizen who occurs to be empowered with information about how weapons inspections work, how choices are made concerning warfare, I’m disillusioned past perception.
This isn’t the primary time we’ve been lied to by the president. However we’ve been lied to by navy officers who’re purported to be above that. Three high Marine Corps officers stood earlier than the American folks and advised bald-faced lies about what was happening. We have now been lied to by Congress, who’re purported to be the folks’s representatives who present a test in opposition to government overreach. And we’ve been lied to by the company media, a bunch of paid mouthpieces who repeat what the federal government tells them with out query.
So Donald Trump can say there are chemical weapons in Syria, the generals parrot his phrases, the Congress nods its head dumbly, and the mass media repeats it over and over to the American public.
DB: Are you nervous that we would find yourself in a capturing warfare with Russia at this level?
SR: Every week in the past I used to be very nervous. If I’m going to provide kudos to Jim Mattis it is going to be as a result of he took the will of Trump and Bolton to create a serious disaster with Russia over the allegations of Syrian chemical weapons use and was in a position to water that down into placing on a present for the American folks. We warned the Russians prematurely, there have been no casualties, we blew up three empty buildings. We spent 1 / 4 of a billion of taxpayer cash and we bought to pat ourselves on the again and inform all people how nice we’re. However we averted a pointless confrontation with the Russians and I’m rather a lot calmer right now in regards to the potential of a capturing warfare with Russia than I used to be per week in the past.