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.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Who was Behind the Killing of Ambassador Karlov?

Who was Behind the Killing of Ambassador Karlov?
By Adam Larson (Caustic Logic)
December 24-26, 2016
last edits Jan. 2, 2017

Poser directed by John Badham.
Who, if anyone, directed Altintas?
The Killer and his Motive
So, as we've all heard, an off-duty Turkish riot policeman named Mevlut Mert Altintas (WP) recently killed Russia's ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov (WP), then died in a firefight with the police. The assassin's name, if not his victim's, is briefly a household one, and certainly his image in the iconic AP photo is now widely known. (I couldn't find a copy, had to use this similar image as a stand-in... well, I had to anyway). 

He's iconic, I guess, of the threat of Sunni extremist terrorism, and perhaps Turkish ultra-nationalism. Don't let the clean-shaven chin fool you. This is the mindset of an ISIS terrorist. Speaking to the world at large, he told reporters after the killing “as long as our lands are not safe (meaning occupied by Islamists – he was referring to their loss of east Aleppo), you will not taste safety.” He was talking to you, and me, and everyone else.

He may have inspired some others. Consider: Altintas killed Karlov on December 19 around 8:15 PM in Turkey (or perhaps 7:15, I've heard both). At 8:02 PM in Germany - that is, about an hour or two later - a claimed ISIS terror attack killed 12 and wounded dozens at a market in Berlin. The two lining up like that helped clarify (at least to most people) Altintas was a terrorist-type to detest, more than a hero for Aleppo's people, or in the great struggle against Russia.

That coincidence could be nothing but one, or someone inspired by the comments to remove some safety, or perhaps even a coordinated two-part event. The details of who was behind each crime matter greatly, perhaps even more so in tandem. But here, we will deal only with the man photographed in the act, not the one who allegedly left his ID papers under the seat of a stolen truck before “fleeing” (mysteries to be resolved elsewhere...) Here we ask who, if anyone, directed the actions of the assassin Altintas.

As usual, this is (will be) a little long. The most important parts, I think, are in the last section.

A Gulen-CIA “Extremist” Plot?
Turkish authorities say Altintas had ties to the Gulen movement, followers of moderate Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, self-exiled in the United States since 1999 (Wikipedia). It seems he and his affiliates may run a large and capable network inside Turkey and out, so far keeping a check on the extremism of president Recap Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AKP party. They may be behind some of the more important challenges to he AKP, even besides the corruption probe in 2013 widely ascribed to Gulen.  * (see note below)

Erdogan is currently trying to purge all suspected Gulenists from the government and society, calling them terrorists, and blaming everything bad on them as an excuse to do that, like the supposed coup attempt in July (see below). Gulen denied involvement in that, as well as the assassination of ambassador Karlov. Erdogan has even blamed Gulen infiltrators for shooting down the Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border, even though that explains nothing at all about that terrible provocation. Erdogan now insists he's totally sorry those guys shot down Russia's jet, and that the same have now killed their ambassador, and will do whatever might happen next. Arrests will always follow. The purge must continue.

Besides putting Gulen behind the killing, the accusation suggests perhaps the CIA were even deeper behind it (if the US is harboring Gulen, they might be using him as a tool). This, I  think, is the flavoring that's got many anti-imperialist thinkers to accept the charges; it seemed Erdogan was moving towards the resistance camp with Russia and the CIA was out to get him already. This was suggested in July and widely accepted; the US ordered a coup because Erdogan finally apologized to Russia over the jet downing - that was actually by the Gulenist infiltrators (who had prevented Erdogan from apologizing earlier?)

There have been some words and even moves from Turkey that fit with that impression of friendly new relations with Russia, but the sincerity of those moves is unclear, given their black history in the Syrian conflict. Erdogan and his ruling AKP party may just be playing a pro-Russia game, hoping to gain fresh leverage with their cooling Western partners. They recently declared support for Syria's territorial integrity in agreement with Russia and Iran, on the same day as their latest failed effort to steal the city of Bab (near Aleppo) from one proxy (ISIS) with the help of other “moderate Islamist” proxies. 

And it seems highly unlikely Altintas was a Gulenist. This network has recently been dubbed FETO - (Fethallist Extremist Terrorist Organization) by Turkish authorities. Erdogan says there's "no use hiding” that Altintas is a FETO member, meaning they're not the moderates they claim to be, and that the police need to be purged some more. By by public stances anyway Gulen and those he would organize would – presumably, – be mainstream Turkish nationalist, neither leftists nor fans of Kurdish aspirations, Islamic by definition and maybe even Islamist, but with an emphasis on democracy, secular elements, modern education, respect for (or “dialog with”) non-Sunnis, non-Muslims, and even atheists. Gulen opposes Sunni extremism, and Erdogan's Syria intervention, which uses it as a weapon.

Whereas publicly, Erdogan denigrates other religions, backs, arms, and harbors genocidal Sunni terrorist groups in Syria, and spreads their lies about the Syrian and Russian governments. He's laid claim to land in Iraq and Syria, taking advantage of the chaos he largely engineered there to try and seize some. At home, he gathers more power for himself and whittles away at all competitors and democracy itself, behaving, it's increasingly said, like an Ottoman sultan of old.

Altintas appears to be an Islamist angered at the Turkish-backed terrorist groups' loss of East Aleppo. Now which category seems a better fit?

Some outsiders eager to blame the CIA seem convinced Altintas was a Gulenist tool, and they're secretly extremists after all. But Turkish officials don't seem to think their own public would buy the "Allahu Akbar” stuff without some explanation. They claim he was from a secular-leaning background, with Kurdish links, and was just acting like an Erdogan type. The Minister of Interior Affairs declared, as Hizmet news reports, “the radical Islamist clues” Altintas built into his life “were efforts to disguise his links to the (Gulen) movement.” Conversely, Ankara's mayor reportedly suggested the traitor chose Jihadist slogans in order to implicate his and Erdogan's AKP party. (Klippenstein/Blumenthal, AlterNet)

But to me, the act seems too convincing by a few degrees. That would be fanatically good method acting - especially the part where he died. This seems more like a true-life AKP Jihadist.

* I don't feel like re-writing the above, but thanks to my friend CE, I can put this in better context. The main carriers of Turkey's secular tradition are called Kemalists.  These may be behind more of the challenges to Erdogan, and seen as the bigger threat. Gulenists are still Islamists, once linked with Erdogan. Though they still seem to be the moderates among them, they could just be the outsiders. And the Gulen network could well be a CIA tool, and it could also barely matter, with the main fight really being Erdogan vs. the Kemalists.
Altintas is alleged to be part of FETO, which seems to be a fictional boogeyman - in fact FETO could be taken as an acronym for Foes of Erdogan Targeted for Obliteration. Kemalists, Gulenists, and others are all framed as one giant conspiracy.
Kemalists are named after modern Turkey's founder, Kemal Ataturk, whom Erdogan also claims to admire. So maybe that's why he chose to put it all under another Islamist umbrella and not even mention those other guys. The moderate/secular aspects of Gulenism could explain that kind of activity, and the Islamist/CIA part might explain Altintas or any other byproduct of Erdogan's rule. Having clarified that, the rest of the article below stands.

Evidence for Gulen Ties 
The assassin's FETO links aren't just claimed but supported by claimed evidence. However, it's not very convincing.
Everyone “knows” it: President Erdogan declaed Altintas “was a member of the FETO. There is no point in hiding this." (AP) He makes it sound obvious, and cites clues that he presents as obvious. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reportedly told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that both Turkey and Russia "know" that Gulen's movement was behind the attack. (DW) He may have implied that the Americans as well have to know, if not to have approved it. The US too has expressed serious skepticism, and asked for supporting evidence. But they're the alleged plotters here, and its Russia's (public) skepticism that matters more, insisting they don't know anything yet; “it is hardly worth hurrying to any conclusions," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov when, he reminded the Turks that the investigation would find the truth in due time. (DW)

Classes, Literature, Links: An AP report quoted Erdogan saying of Altentas' Gulen links: "from the places he was raised to his connections - that's what they point at." But it seems the better translation for “raised” would be “educated.” German DW quotes the President saying “All his connections, from where he was educated to his links, point to FETO," adding that he took some classes at a school associated with the Gulen foundation. (DW) The person who got him into the school was also linked, some have noted as if it meant much. For all we know his family pressed him into it, he was just taking some extra-good classes, or he was there as a spy for Erdogan.
Pro-government media reported police found pro-Gulen literature that belonged to Altintas. He also had acquaintances who were Gulen sympathizers (DW) This could be planted, or maybe he was doing opposition research.

He's also said to have lived with a lawyer suspected of being Kurdish, suggesting a Gulenist-Kurdish network against AKP's Turkey (Telegraph) But this is extremely speculative and raises as many questions as it tries to answer (and if this lawyer has the initials S.O., he might be a jihadist - see below).

Possible Coup Involvement: perhaps the most compelling clue of direct involvement: “State-run media outlet Anadolu said Altintas took two sick leave days on the day of the attempted coup” of July 15, 2016. (DW) Reports are he did the same on his last day – called in sick, then shot ambassador Karlov. But there's some confusion. As Hurriyet reports:
Altıntaş reportedly took a report of absence for two days after the thwarted coup, even though all police officers were called to duty after July 15.
He was on duty in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on July 15, but arrived in Ankara on July 16 after obtaining a leave of absence. He stayed in a house in the Demetevler district of the Turkish capital, daily Habertürk reported.
Two days including the 15th, or two days after, or officials also told Reuters his leave was three days, July 15-17, and FoxNews reports “the government could assert this showed Altintas knew about the coup attempt beforehand,” reports It's also reported he bought the ticket the 15th, so he must have known by then – but they say he wasn't in Ankara for the main show, travelling there perhaps late on the 15th,, meaning to be part of some second wave, but just as the effort was failing.

Hurriyet reports “The police chief who allowed him to take the leave of absence, Kahraman Sezer, was arrested after the failed coup attempt over links to the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.” That suggests he was in on it, and the guy he sent … “Altıntaş himself was suspended over suspected links to FETÖ on Oct. 4 but was returned to duty on Nov. 16.” He was apparently cleared of suspicion then, at the time. One month later, he shot ambassador Karlov in what they pose as an obvious Gulen plot. This doesn't seem to add up very well.

Furthermore, seen a different way, this mysterious period of activity could be a chilling clue Altintas was a dedicated anti-Gulenist. We'll return to it below (see Coup Plotter?)

Maybe Altintas Directed Himself?
My own initial feeling was this: no one deliberately set this up to blame anyone else. If anyone had, it would more likely be the Erdogan side. But if that were the case, it seems to me they'd have clearer connections and better evidence, instead of relying on the evidence panned above, and having to clumsily arrest his entire family, as if to be sure they all get the story right and "prove" a Gulen link (DW reports 11 family members and friends taken in - I predict they will help illustrate the desired link, or be said to help and that will be close enough).

This looks more like a case of one of Erdogan's own goons (see below) gone amok; he drank a fatal dose of kool-aid, dyed with his own true colors. His crime may line up with the sultan's plans, or complicate them, depending. I don't know what Erdogan's true plans are. If it lines up, obviously some help or direction is still worth considering. But I suspect not. 

In the regard that Erdogan is behind this Islamist and ultra-nationalist menace, at least, he's behind the killing. No one did it to make Erdogans look bad. Erdogan and his fanatical followers just are bad, and this guy shows them for who they are, with no plotting required.

An Al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) Plot?
Or is there a third power behind the act? As Tarek Fatah notes here, Altintas was "acting in solidarity with the defeated Arab jihadis of ISIS and al-Qaida in the Syrian city of Aleppo." He shouted Allahu Akbar as he fired, and “was then heard chanting the unofficial anthem of al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida. “We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad for jihad.”” 
That's Jabhat Al-Nusra (victory front, now calling itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), a US-designated terrorist group, now formally separated from al-Qaeda, and as always supported by Erdogan's Turkey to lead the fight in Syria. The Islamist Jaish al-Fatah coalition, which is led by al-Nusra, claimed responsibility for the assassination, according to a letter circulated online (not verified) (TASS, Al-Youm Al-Sabea (Arabic), TurkishMinute
Douglas Burton, Free Beacon points out how al-Nusra swore to avenge their loss of Aleppo, and seemingly took credit for this. “However," he notes, "Abu Maria al Qahtani, a member of the Shura Council of Fateh al Sham, disavowed the claim, denying his group’s involvement in the assassination, according to Daesh Daily, a war digest.” So they've reportedly claimed and denied it. 

For all we know, they did it and the denial was simply backpedaling after an angry phone call from Erdogan. Or perhaps they really had no part, and Altintas just directed himself. But he did invoke their motto, which could confirm the claim or at least some connection. This could mean Turkish cop Altintas had al-Qaeda/al-Nusra links, of a serious and actionable sort, obviously. Would this be in addition to the Gulen links, or instead of them? 

Evidence for Erdogan Ties

There are the clues suggesting Gulen links, but even more clues Altintas was a supporter or even a direct armed element of the Erdogan camp, secret operations division.

Drifting to Jihad
Where Mevlut Mert Altintas was “raised” was cited, in an (apparent mistranslation), as sign of Gulen links. But in fact it's a weak clue to the contrary. He was born and raised in Söke and, as the UK Telegraph reported, “While Turkey’s western provinces are renowned for their open, more liberal politics, in Söke, the graffiti of right-wing ultra-nationalists mars the walls.” His family was reportedly somewhat secular and pro-Gulen, but the boy would grow up surrounded by conflicting messages. He could turn out different ways, depending.

After being rejected from university twice, he graduated from İzmir Police School in 2014. (Wikipedia) The assassin's father says his son changed, apparently radicalized, after joining the police force. He didn't know of any terrorist links, but Mevlut “started becoming focused on his prayers, more introverted and silent after he became a policeman." He moved with police academy friend named Sercan B. to be roommates in Ankara. Mevlut's step-sister says the same - police school, and especially his friend "S" radicalized the young man - he stopped drinking, prayed 5 times a day, and started learning Arabic. "“He always said he would advance and he would be superior. He was brainwashed and kept away from us. Some people are saying that we raised him that way, but we did not," she said. (Hurriyet)

In Ankara, he attended speeches of hardline salafi preacher Nurettin Yildiz, famed for advocating child marriage, wife-beating, and beheading and dismemberment for Gulenists. However, in the same way I note above for his attending a Gulen school …he could have been doing opposition research, right? Turkish Diken reports (auto-translated)
According to Hürriyet, lawyer S.Ö. And Altıntaş met in Ankara during the conversations of Nurettin Yildiz. Accordingly, S.Ö., SB and Altıntaş were attending conversations of Nurettin Yıldız in Hacı Bayram Mosque in a house in Etlik and Batıkent in Ankara.
(SB might be Sercan B, his roommate. Is S.O. The suspected Kurd lawyer and other roommate?)

More direct would be his contacts with Islamists running militias in Syria. Altintas reportedly contacted Murat Oduncu, from a Salafi group called 'Kurtuba Youth Movement' in Syria. Twitter messages reportedly show Altintas sparked contact, and they met and talked. As Google-translated, and as I could make sense of that, Diken reports Altintas wanted to leave police duty and take an active role fighting in Syria. Oduncu noted the future assassin was “very young and had psychological problems,” and scolded him for having gone to a Gulen-linked school.

Nonetheless, he advised the lad on a path to martyrdom in Syria; 'enter the Special Operations'. At the time of Karlov's killing, Altintas was reportedly part of the “elite special operations unit," and these tweets and the account were reportedly deleted.

Coup Plotter?
But perhaps the most interesting lead relates to his alleged coup involvement. Hurriyet, close to Turkish authorities, says Altintas might have helped in this, after he called in sick from work - just like he did the day he shot the ambassador. It's implied this might be relevant, as in there was no innocent reason proven. He might have been doing coup work, they now think. 

Really now? Because back then … even with that shady absence on record and the other supposedly obvious signs, the aggressive dragnet of military, police, government, and civil society that took in tens of thousands did not manage to nab Altintas? He was briefly suspended they say in October-November on suspicion, but he had that cleared and was reinstated in time to use his authority to bypass security screens and shoot Russia's ambassador dead.

The killer's step-sister says he flew to Izmir on the 15th for the wedding of his Islamist frind "S" (Sercan B.). But did the wife go live with them in Ankara the next day? Confusing.  (Hurriyet)

But authorities insist he was or might have been doing coup work. Could it be the authorities know just what he did in mid-July, and it was just that, and they never arrested him because they approved of his work? Yes, it's quite possible. The timeline confusion might matter: did he really arrive in Ankara only on the 16th? Or is this one alibi authorities still want him to have?

Let's pause to re-consider this alleged coup. In retrospect, it did nothing but be provocative and then fail badly, allowing a massive and useful retribution from a newly-empowered Erdogan. There might have been a genuine coup attempt, but those promoting the idea seem to be guessing and leaping to blame Gulen and thus the CIA. As far as I could tell from middling study, it seems all evidence for this 'coup' could be explained by a few armed fakers in a TV studio, a few in one "rogue" helicopter and perhaps a couple of jets, some social media forgeries, and a few unseen snipers. That is, besides a number of hapless and unarmed soldiers sent out on the streets, as they said, on a suspiciously timed "exercise."

The rest is Erdogan miraculously surviving, with re-invigorated supporters, and a ready list of domestic rivals to blame and get rid of: suspected Geulenists, Kurds, leftists, maybe Armenians, etc. Probably zero Allahu Akbarking Islamists like Mr. Altintas were put in the pound in that sweep. Those in fact tended to be in the pro-Erdogan mobs assailing, murdering, even beheading soldiers they caught. And they would be the ones running any fakery that allowed that spree.

If Altintas was involved in helping spark Erdogan's purge, we can see how this would shed some light on what really did happen in those murky days. There was probably some role in this for riot cops (I don't know many of the details). If there was a scene where any of them behaved obnoxiously, shouted Marxist slogans and then killed a woman, or something to that effect, my suspicion is Mr. Altintas was one of them. And like all the provocateurs, was never arrested, but instead remained free, protected, and perhaps newly-favored; he might even show signs of being rewarded in the following period.

Moving Up the Ladder of Trust?
From just the available information I've found, it seems something changed in the killer's life at this time. Altintas reportedly moved to Ankara the day after the coup, but possibly a bit before. On the 16th of July, it's said, he took apartment Sercan B, as the Telegraph reports, in “a block of flats above a shop selling children’s bicycles in Demetevler, a working-class suburb” of Ankara. But he “didn't stay long,” and moved in a dramatic way:
According to a neighbours and the brother of Altintas’ landlord, the young police officer moved out shortly after the coup attempt that rocked Turkey in July, selling all his possessions before he departed. His next home was an apartment on a cul-de-sac in the poor, densely populated northern suburb of Keçiören. Like Söke, the neighbourhood has a reputation for nationalism.
Who would sell all his possessions just to move to nearby suburb? One reason might be: the new place would be furnished with better stuff, or his pay was set to increase so he could upgrade and the old crap wasn't worth moving. That is, somehow or other, he was stepping up. The neighborhood wasn't rich, but the apartment might have been posh.

He apparently already worked for the elite special operations unit, but might have been moving up within it.

Douglas Burton spoke with Ahmet Yayla. the former head of the counter-terrorism and operations division of Turkey’s national police, who who now lives in the United States and teaches courses in national security and law at George Mason University (and is accused of being part of the FETO network, which he denies). Yayla explains how Erdogan's purges, before the alleged coup and especially after, have left massive security holes. “In the Ministry of Interior alone after the coup, the president removed 18,600 senior police officers,” he said.

The thousands of gaps left by the mass arrests have been filled, sometimes poorly, with loyal Erdogan followers. Authorities shut down the old police academies and decentralized training to four-month courses at regular universities. These, he says, are conducted with little or no oversight to screen out Jihadists, who may instead be steered to these jobs, quickly turned out and rapidly promoted. (Burton, Klippenstein/Blumenthal, AlterNet) Altintas was already graduated before this (back in 2014), but the jihadist's quick rise “to a prestigious unit of riot police in Ankara” raises questions, Yayla said. “It is unthinkable that such a junior officer would have been given this boost unless he were very close to the ruling AKP Party of Erdogan.” (Burton)

The special operations unit he was part of might include: fake coups or real assassinations, on the secret side. Publicly, it does include, as German DW reports, “Previous security details”
Daily newspaper Hurriyet said Altintas served in riot police in Ankara and provided security for Erdogan eight times since the coup attempt in July.”
The UK Telegraph reports:
Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, served on police details backing up Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s personal body guards eight times since the failed military coup that rocked Turkey in July, Abdülkadir Selvi, a columnist known for his close ties to the government, wrote in Hurriyet on Wednesday. Alintas, who served on an elite Ankara riot unit for two and a half years, was part of the second tier of security at those events.
Is this a promotion? It's said he did this same security job before - once in 2014, once in 2015, and then eight times in the second half of 2016. Post-coup he should be extra-carefully picked to help defend against alleged Gulen plotters. Now they say he was one all along. But none of the suddenly-obvious clues emerge before and raised enough suspicion to revoke that clearance. The alleged FETO traitor “provided security for Erdogan” repeatedly, but never tried to assassinate him. Did the first tier of security prevent him every time from taking a shot at the Gulenist's main enemy? Or did he actually like Erdogan?

Tarek Fatah noted the shooting was: "eerily similar to the assassination of Pakistani governor Salman Taseer by his jihadi police bodyguard in January, 2011." But this time, the jihadi police assassin never did kill his ward - he was trusted and indeed protected by the Turkish state up to the moment he assassinated Russia's ambassador instead.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Did John Kerry collude with ISIS to capture Palmyra?

ISIS terrorist execute prisoners in Palmyra theater in 2015.
It has been clear to all parties for several weeks that the rebels and their terrorist allies in the eastern Aleppo pocket must be evacuated to other terrorist-held areas. Green buses have been on waiting at the exit corridor for weeks. The United Stated has made every effort to prevent a deal from being reached. Kerry has been "backtracking" and "playing diplomatic games".

A deal between the US and Russia was suddenly reached yesterday, only a few hours after ISIS captured Palmyra. The fall of Palmyra is largely the result of the fact that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) troops defending Palmyra had been transferred to Aleppo to take part in the decisive battles, most notable the Desert Hawks Brigade who were the experts in desert warfare. Palmyra was defended by poorly trained National Defense Force (NDF) troops who were killed by the hundreds in ISIS' initial attacks.

Map of Palmyra as published by pro-ISIS Twitter account.
It seems evident that Kerry and the Aleppo rebels had been told by their masters to hold on to Aleppo as long as it took ISIS to conquer Palmyra.


1) It has been a long term US plan to establish an "Islamic State" in eastern Syria. This is revealed in the 2012 report by the DIA. See for example:
2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document: West will facilitate rise of Islamic State “in order to isolate the Syrian regime”
2) A US-Saudi plan called for the relocation of the Caliphate (ISIS) and its terrorist forces from Mosul to eastern Syria, specifically to Deir ez-Zor. The plan was first revealed by Russian sources on October 12, 2016 and later confirmed by Reuters on December 7th.
US, Saudis to grant 9,000 ISIS fighters free passage from Iraqi Mosul to Syria – source

How Iran closed the Mosul 'horseshoe' and changed Iraq war
3) The US and coalition air forces attacked the Syrian Army in Deir ez-Zor on September 17, 2016. The attack was synchronized with an ISIS ground attack that almost lead to the capture of Deir ez-Zor airport and made it permanently unusable to airplanes.
US airstrike on SAA in Deir ez-Zor
Syria claims that they have recordings of communications between ISIS and US forces during the attack.

4) ISIS is said to have moved 4000 terrorist troops and 200 vehicles to Palmyra, allegedly from Iraq, without the US seeing them or attacking them.

5) The ISIS attack was closely monitored by US drones.
Within Syria ‏@WithinSyriaBlog Dec 10
My source in T4 AB: many USAF UAVs are over the battlefield in #Palmyra just watching!
6) Syrian sources claim that prior to the ISIS attack the US Air Force had disrupted all SAA radio communications and radar around Palmyra.

ISIS flag in Palmyra on December 11, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Was phosphine used in the Ghouta Chemical Massacre?

By Petri Krohn,
December 6, 2016

A barrel of Detia GAS-EX-B in an abandoned grain silo in Herford, Germany
I have always maintained that the alleged "sarin" attack of August 2013 never happened. Instead, hostages were gassed in cellars throughout eastern Ghouta. The chemical agent used has been a mystery. I have assumed it was mainly chlorine, but not all symptoms match.

Lizzie Phelan has now published photos and video from a school in eastern Aleppo that had been used as a rebel base. A storage room contained hundreds of liters of potassium permanganate in 10 or 20 liter plastic canisters. We have long suspected that Syrian rebels use potassium permanganate to generate chlorine gas for their gas chambers and for staging "regime gas attacks".

The chemical cache also contains barrels of aluminium phosphide under the brand name Detia GAS-EX-B. Aluminium phosphide produces phosphine upon contact with atmospheric water. The primary use of phosphine is as a fumigant in farms and grain silos. Was Detia GAS-EX-B also used to fumigate rebel prisoners?

Dead children in in the "Sun Morgue" in Kafr Batna in August 2013

Detia GAS-EX-B is delivered in bags that are packed in metal barrels like the ones seen in on the video.
A barrel of Detia GAS-EX-B similar to the one seen on the video.
A bag of Detia GAS-EX-B taken from the barrels. (Photo by Lizzie Phelan)
The immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) concentration for phosphine is stated as 69,5 mg/m3 where it is only 29 mg/m3 for chlorine. However, only 118,56 mg of precursor chemicals are needed to poison one cubic meter of air to the IDLH level with phosphine, whereas 159,09 mg of potassium permanganate and pure hydrochloric acid are needed for one cubic meter of chlorinated air. The chemicals however come as water solutions, so the total bulk is far greater.

A canister of  potassium permanganate poured on the stairs of the school in Hanano.
Phosphine gas is a cytotoxic compound that causes free radical mediated injury, inhibits vital cellular enzymes and is directly corrosive to tissues. Wikipedia covers the effects of phosphine under the topic of aluminium phosphide poisoning. Poisonings are seen as a problem in India and Saudi Arabia.

The school in Hanano in eastern Aleppo may have been a weapons factory. Chlorine and phosphine may have been produced for use in chemical weapons. It is also possible that the were used in situ for executions. As a fumigant aluminium phosphide is quite similar to Zyklon B. Both are solid compounds that release toxic gasses when exposed to water or humidity. It should not be a huge intellectual challenge for an aspiring terrorist to figure out that aluminium phosphide or Detia GAS-EX-B has uses in a gas chamber.

For some odd reason no one has ever before suggested phosphine as the chemical agent in the Ghouta massacre. Other organophosphorus compounds have been suggested without much proof. One vital clue may be the smell. Impure "technical grade" phosphine has a highly unpleasant odor like garlic or rotting fish or rotten eggs. Witnesses in Ghouta reported the smell as unpleasant, rotten like rotten eggs.

Did Ghouta rebels use Detia GAS-EX-B to gas their victims in cellars or other gas chambers?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Responding to Draister's 'Break the Silence'

By Adam Larson aka Caustic Logic
October 22, 2016
last edits Nov. 24

*November note: Throughout, an astute reader noticed, I misspelled Eric Draitser as Eric Draister. Apologies for minor dyslexia/quick reading. I had thought that was it for a couple of years and never checked.Also, my prediction of an "inevitable" Clinton victory for president quickly proved incorrect.

An Appeal to the Left, From the Gulf Within it
Eric Draister, founder of StopImperialism.org and host of CounterPunch Radio, recently wrote an article called Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence (Counterpunch,October 20). This calls out critically both to leftists who support the Syrian opposition or US intervention, and to those who support the Syrian government,  each in a different way. He predicted:
Undoubtedly there are people on both sides of this debate who, if they’re still reading (doubtful), are frothing at the mouth with rage as they prepare to send their hate mail or attack this article and me on social media.
Among those supporting the Assad government, Stephen Gowans posts a non-frothy rebuttal that's worth reading. I've seen some stronger opinions expressed in e-mails from supporters of Syria's government, but didn't dig through Twitter or anything. I'm sure there are several biting comments.

As for the other side, perhaps (I also didn't dig for these). But "unrepentant Marxist" Louis Proyect embraces the article as a "mea culpa", comparing it to earlier work by Draister that challenged accusations against Syria's government (see below) he now seems to accept. Proyect has made a long habit of insisting he's against US intervention, but maintains every provided moral reason for regime change and continued war with as much gusto as any Syrian opposition activist.To me, he's clearly either very confused, or a deliberate and likely paid disniformation agent. Unlike Draister, I see no value in reaching out to Proyect or others of his style of thinking. Proyect seems to think or hope Draister is now in the same camp. I hope not.

The fact is much of the populace, and even much of the "anti-war left" has been deluded into supporting this latest - indirect, but brutal and grinding - brand of regime-change campaign. Many who had opposed war on Iraq in 2003 support the anti-Assad fight now, and in 2011 rooted on the swifter mistake in Libya, perhaps just because a Democrat president has been at the helm. With the inevitable victory of Hillary Clinton coming up, naturally there's a fear escalated involvement in Syria is almost as inevitable. 

Draister is clear in his desire to stop this before it starts, and that's laudable. He spends some energy raising doubts among the war-supporting left while trying (too hard, in my opinion) to not appear a supporter of the "brutal dictator," or a possible "Putin troll." It's the John McCains, Hillary Clintons, Recap Erdogans, ... and I guess the Louis Proyects of the world  who need criticized the most for pushing a divisive anti-truth narrative or using it to harm people for some geopolitical gain. Folks like Eric Draister, it seems to me, are just trying to operate in the vast and confusing space between. Bridges need built, people need to be spoken to in their own language, etc.

This is a laudable kind of position to take in general - it won't be the purest truth, but has a better chance of reaching minds that need reached. And I sense that he's sincere in adopting this view, although it suggests he's missed some things. There are pitfalls to such an attempt at balance - like if an unexpected degree of religiously-inspired criminality appears in a slot one ascribes more rational motives to.  You expect x behavior from both sides, some sort of "there are no good guys" so-called "realism." But what if you don't quite get one of the sides as well as you thought?
Be that as it may, the question now before us is this: where do you stand on direct US intervention?
Against, against, against. In all forms and for any given reason. Indirect intervention too. They've lost all credibility and should not be allowed to meddle one iota from about five years ago at least. This question wasn't directed at me. "The left" in general, in the USA in particular, is about to be led - to some degree - to just this question, by their champ Hillary and with suggested answer of "yes," for some reason that will seem to make sense. Please, folks, try and notice this magic spell being cast, and refuse it vigorously!

Ignoring the other good questions for the opposition' supporters, ones I feel compelled to respond to: 

Protesters, Jihadists, and Syria-Russia Bombing
And while the revolutionary content of the rebel side in Syria has been sidelined by a hodgepodge of Saudi and Qatari-financed jihadists – the uprising began as a response to the Syrian government’s neoliberal policies and brutality, among other things – this cannot be taken to mean that countless innocent men, women, and children have not been maimed and killed by Syrian and Russian weapons, jets, and fighters.
Protests against neoliberal policies that were genuinely revolutionary: who said this? How can we know it was true as opposed to just sounding good? If true, how many of the protesters was it true for, and for how long? If they were predominantly liberals, why the quick slide into sectarianism? They were killing soldiers before the end of March, 2011, openly murdering Alawites in the street since mid-April at the latest, and chanting Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave since about the same time. And soon after, some stuff even Draister doesn't know about, some mentioned below.

My impression: at first both kinds of protesters were present, the liberals we could identify with in smaller numbers but put out front. As the sectarian Sunnis and their provocateur snipers took over, the liberals primarily stopped adding their voices to the furor and sided with the government against the terrorist menace, sponsored by an obvious (to them) foreign conspiracy. End of story, pretty much. Dateline: about June 2011 at latest.

Since then, they've primarily joined the government even, with loyal opposition parties allowed under the new constitution. These and their supporters on the street now stand by Syria and its now-elected president, and their friends and relatives serving in the conscription-based and representative Syrian Arab Army. The legitimate Syrian protesters of a few weeks in 2011 would appreciate our understanding and support as times have changed.

"(Jihadists have sidelined the "revolutionary" side, but) this cannot be taken to mean that countless innocent men, women, and children have not been maimed and killed by Syrian and Russian weapons, jets, and fighters.": Agreed. These are separate questions that need answered separately based on their own evidence. What could be taken to mean this is evidence that countless people have perhaps not been killed by Russian and Syrian bombs as alleged, and that something else has, at least in large part, been killing them this whole time, without being identified or condemned. And we have such evidence, some of which I'll mention below.

Shades of Gray and Specific Crimes
In the long and convoluted history of this war there have been precious few moments of clear and unmistakable moral judgment. If anything, the portrait of the war in Syria is colored in shades of gray, with little black and white to be found.
I'm a shades of gray person myself, but here I find startlingly dark shades vs. essentially white, at least in comparison. Realism doesn't always mean dividing the crimes down the middle. Character issues matter, and we have a representative, inclusive, secular government with every reason to not wreck the country they have to manage - and parties they trust and have invited to help - vs. - as Draister describes them, "a hodgepodge of Saudi and Qatari-financed jihadists," largely foreign but working with some Syrian Islamists as well, many of who are borderline suicide-bomber fanatics or who can walk away or hide in Turkey - and their foreign backers who get to bleed Syria by remote control.

The way to call this is effectively black-and-white, from a technically shades-of-gray perspective. And the black-and-white is upside-down from the way it's been hammered into our brains over the last years.
If you’re supportive of Assad then it’s a certainty that you’ve chosen to ignore or downplay the horrific violence of the bombings, the brutality of the torture chambers, and other unspeakable atrocities (I admit that I have often strayed too far into the latter) out of a desire to uphold the nominally anti-imperialist position.
That's not a certainty and it's not true in my case. In general, however, this is a real problem. Many folks ignore these allegations as inconvenient, or poke a few lazy holes of doubt and declare the claim sunk and discredited, or respond with bland "whataboutism" (what about US prison torture, etc.) I prefer to engage all such things and see what's up, on the premise of "what about this?" I encourage those in the "pro-Assad" camp along with me to more clearly address these issues even an ally like Draister gets stumped over. Our efforts so far have mostly been unconvincing, it seems.That's not because there's no truth to be found, but because most just aren't trying hard enough to discern it, or we do but it doesn't get heard. And I acknowledge it's not easy, if one is not in the habit.

He gives links with two crime categories he feels people are ignoring. I'll take those as good examples I'll address (again, in both cases):

"the violence of the bombings":
Independent (UK) report from 13 October cries 150 killed in 2 days bombing (Oct. 11-12) in Aleppo, "rescue workers say." It used to be "activists say," but they've got helmets now and might even rescue people sometimes, in between propaganda sessions. Draister probably doesn't buy the critiques of White Helmets as sectarian Jihadist allies, but can probably see how that's at least partly true. We should all understand why their claims are worth questioning, not just pointing to as facts.

As for the deaths, the opposition Violations Documentation Center (VDC) database shows only 67 Aleppo civilians killed by warplane shelling, even taking 3 days (Oct. 10-12). Is this a case where they cite the national total as the main news area's total? Not even quite that: nationwide, same 3-day span, only 97. (VDC records aren't necessarily complete, but get updated and are shown to be more detailed and credible than vague freeze-frame number-only tallies by SOHR or White Helmets)

Of the 67, 63 were killed in the cited 2 days, mostly in Bustan el-Qassr (the cited area of mass bombing). Oct. 11-12 deaths are all by Russian forces, as the VDC says: 46 men, 10 boys, 9 women, 2 girls. 7 men named al-Deeb were killed, with no children, and possibly no wives. This is the sort of weird demographics that underlie all alleged bombing massacres.

In that same span, the same bombing as usual said to kill ZERO rebel fighters in Aleppo. Really? Not a single strike aimed at and successfully hit a single rebel? The same results are seen in Sept. 19-Sept. 30 (12 days), and Oct. 16-17 - all times I've checked lately yield a combined ZERO rebels killed by mostly Russian bombing, to 585 civilians, primarily men, but with some whole families.

This prevalence of men can mean random chance, laundered rebel fighter deaths, or captive men, or a mix. I usually lean to hostages, including here. But in this case, it's quite likely we're also seeing lots of killed rebels passed off as civilians, to help "clarify" the moral stakes of bailing out Aleppo like we bailed out Benghazi, to avert a "bloodbath."

The arc of attack, well-mapped: relevant or not?
This is interesting because Draister called a similar pattern regarding last year's Douma market Attack, which he wrote about at Counterpunch but didn't mention here. That was a decent but not well-informed piece, raising some valid questions about the alleged fighter jet attack, and some invalid ones. He thought the reported 100+ fatalities being almost entirely men could mean they were rebel fighters killed in a government strike on some base of theirs. Proyect makes a fair case about Draister's sub-par analysis there - it's not hard to see four rockets hit public market areas, killing and wounding an unclear number. I trump them both with forensic evidence the markets were hit with terrorist (Jaish al-Islam) rockets fired from the south, not from a government jet, and for the victims - mostly men, but apparently civilians - being massacred already before those rockets were fired, obviously all by people working as a team. (see review)

The same pattern he noted, and was burned by his reading of, is a real oddity running all throughout the Syrian conflict. Time and again, dozens or hundreds are allegedly killed in random shelling, and they're usually 80-100% men. If these were laundered rebels, the war would have been over long ago. But, what else explains the strange gender distribution of the people living in the homes supposedly hit by careless government bombs? It's worth risking or sustaining a burn to wonder about that, as Draister did.

The problem runs way back. In Homs' Khalidiya district 138 people were reported as killed in their homes by random government shelling, in early Feb. 2012. Records show those 138 were 130 men and 8 mostly older boys. The counter-claim fits: they were minorities and government supporters taken hostage and then killed by the terrorists, in order to blame the government. (ACLOS) Prisoners would be largely men (often reckoned as 13+) or gender segregated anyway, and I kind of suspect this story is the true explanation. And I fear the same explanation might hold down though the years and to the present day, though with fighters mixed in too, in spots. For example, in Aleppo now, there's likely  a large number of dead fighters swept under the civilian rug. If so, the war may be over for them soon, and they might be too busy dying and running to finish executing all their hostages.

I don't suppose this reading will convince anyone who's sure Syrian and Russian shelling simply kills lots of civilians, and mainly men. They'll keep presuming this is how Syrians live, all segregated, and the regimes in Damascus and Moscow just keep bombing them to death, by accident or design, while hardly killing any militants in the same bombing. Why and how don't matter, just so long as the regimes are eventually made to pay. This is just the thinking underpinning the destabilization and bleeding of Syria. 

"Torture chambers":
For this, Mr. Draister links to the New Yorker piece on the "Assad Files" (April, 2016), which only indirectly connects to the "Caesar torture photos" story dating back two years earlier, which he might have intended to cite. I already tore up this later report with Regarding those "Assad Files": it seems the smuggled documents are legitimate and reflect only the government responding to a crisis, with reasonable measures re-painted in ominous and damning colors.

After digging for the juiciest material there is, the worst they could quote, and the biggest problem for Assad supporters, was one official speaking of some fairly extreme torture, which he heard a report of, and that he angrily demanded be stopped. Everything else is less clear than that, so apparently, they failed to find much. There was apparently no order connecting to the mass killing of prisoners supposedly proven by the "Caesar photos." But they fill in some gaps with supposed prisoners, steered to them by Qatari-sponsored activist groups and such, who implicate those same named officials with dramatic stories they tell. These stories may be prime evidence in future war crimes trials, "based on a true story" and just loosely.

The investigators remixing all this, like those who drafted the report supporting the claims of "Caesar," are professional regime-blames ("war crimes" investigators and/or prosecutors), getting paid by someone with a vested interest and deep pockets. They should be suspect of crafting  impressions of guilt where there may be no genuine basis for it. They might be credible and honest, but that shouldn't be taken as a certainty as one points to their work as a supposed fact. 

Further, the source they had speak with the New Yorker's writer, has a rather propagandistic and unlikely narrative. "Mazen Hamada" says he was arrested in 2012  for smuggling infant formula into Daraya, which was considered "terrorism." And he says that's why he was in a regime prison where he witnessed some scenes right out the "Caesar photos." 

These photos - a running story since January, 2014 - also exist, and remain poorly tackled by most supporters of Syria's government. There are the exceptions of at least Rick Sterling (Syria Solidarity Movement report) and myself (Fail Caesar series). My impression: they seem to be unidentified bodies given reference numbers; some rotted a bit before being documented and some were found alive and show signs of efforts to save them. About 40% of the photos aren't even shown, because they show killed soldiers and the scenes of rebel attacks. But among the 60% publicized (around 6,700 men and boys, and one token woman) it seems there are several kinds of dead people; some look like killed rebel fighters, and some soldiers killed and found out-of-context. Numbers suggest there were at least 10,000 unidentified bodies processed - if so, we're seeing only about 67% or less. Perhaps the missing half made it even clearer who these people were?
victims #215-3669 and 215-3670, w/Shia-suggesting tattoos

But most victims among those shown seem to be terribly abused prisoners, as alleged. They don't seem like government prisoners, however, lacking uniforms, but like terrorist hostages, gender-segregated like all those alleged bombing victims. They include many Shi'ites or Alawites (just going by tattoos) and at least some Christians. They were killed en masse, many it seems by a toxic gas like chlorine, after starvation and varying levels of abuse or torture. I believe the terrorists (likely Jaish al-Islam) gave each victim a false "regime prisoner ID #" on forehead tape before they were dumped for the government to find, and to be photographed that way by sympathetic insider "Caesar," or whomever he got the photos from, etc.

Not Mentioned
Further, we could add the sectarian massacres like in Al-Houla (May, 2012) and Al-Bayda, (May, 2013) with entire families slaughtered with great cruelty. But these were a while ago, and best evidence suggests terrorists carried these out while in charge of the massacre areas, killing families that supported the government, or converted to Shi'ism, with Alawites killed separately but at the same time. Or how about the supreme original sin of shooting protesters and police and army defectors who refused to shoot? All the same stories were untrue during the coordinated terrorist takeover of half of Libya in February, 2011. Why should we presume they're true in Syria?

Why aren't these mentioned, as Draister cites newer and more widely-accepted claims? Probably because he knows there are at least serious questions over "activists say," versions 1 and 2 aired from 2011-2013. It would better in arguing the case, whatever your reason for arguing it, to rely on the more nuanced claims that came after activists rounded that learning curve. Massacres no longer happen in town squares or private homes that rebels can access, as they can access half the country now. So their way to get evidently proven regime crimes is having the death come from the bottoms of aircraft above, or from within a controlled regime prison. 

 Assorted Responses
Words like “traitors,” “cowards,” and “terrorists,” are shamefully applied to ordinary Syrians fleeing to Europe and elsewhere in hopes of saving their families. Indeed, it is precisely this narrative that is at the core of the white supremacist, fascist ideology that underlies a significant amount of the support base for Assad and his allies (see David Duke, David Icke, Alexander Dugin, Brother Nathanel, Alex Jones, Mimi al-Laham, Ken O’Keefe, and on and on and on).
This strikes me as provocative and likely unfair. I've seen Mimi say she identifies as white and make arguably antisemitic comments, and there's David Duke. The rest I don't know. I really don't read around enough to bother refuting this "white supremacist, fascist ideology" claim. But I've got no stock in Alex Jones or David Icke anyway.

As for the refugees, they likely have a mix of motives, including terrorism and salafi networking, etc, besides innocent motives.
To the pro-Assad Syria fetishists, I ask: Will you continue to pretend that the only crimes and atrocities being committed are those veiled behind Old Glory?
I try not to be an "Assad fetishist," but might fit his definition. I for one don't say all - just most, or perhaps all serious crimes have been by the opposition side, be it ISIS or FSA, as far as I can tell. And it's not pretending, but an informed opinion based on the samplings we've taken and researched.
Are you comfortable in the knowledge that this war will continue on indefinitely so long as all outside actors continue to use Syria as merely a square on their respective geopolitical chessboards?
No. Outside actors - aside from those invited by the legitimate inside actor (Syria's sovereign government) clearly should butt out.
Will you continue to delude yourselves by refusing to accept the plainly obvious truth that no state or group has the best interests of Syrians at heart? 
I will continue, call it delusion if you want, that Syria's government wants what's best for its people. Russia's full motives may be more mixed, but they seem to be on the right side and carry the right spirit, so I refuse to accept they're a part of the real problem here. The USA, UK,  France, KSA, Turkey, other governments clearly do not want what's best for Syrians, and the sorry state of the country today is a testament to their plans getting the upper hand for years straight. The prevalence of false claims against the government has provided some moral cover for this.
Will you allow yourselves to be the useful idiots of carefully calculated political maneuvering?
Hell no, I hope. Question for Eric: Will you?
...our responsibility is to the people of Syria and to peace and justice.
Indeed, and truth is fundamental. This is why we owe it to them to question our own assumptions, consider the true problem as if we may not grasp it yet - because we may not.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

White Helmets Covering Up Genocidal Massacres?

White Helmets Covering Up Genocidal Massacres?
By Adam Larson aka Caustic Logic
October 20, 2016
last edits and notes Oct. 25

Mythology and Reality in Review
An image the White Helmets have recycled, FWIW
WHITE HELMETS! The Islamist-identifying "Syrian Civil Defense" aka "White Helmets" is apparently meant to replace the official Syrian Civil Defense with something more ideologically suited to operate in "liberated" areas (universally run by Al-Qaeda and their kind of Saudi-indoctrinated Sunni extremists). They probably are in part an actual rescue outfit that has saved at least some innocents, from violence that was actually by Syrian government forces or their allies. But the size of that part - 100% to read the mainstream media - is seriously in question. In large part they also seem to be a foreign-created PR stun in support of regime change, who specialize mainly in blaming "Assad" or "Putin" for every death in this foreign-sponsored violence. (see also White Helmets article at A Closer Look On Syria (ACLOS))

All the praise heaped on the White Helmets is perhaps just for casting the "correct" blame, but saving the lives of babies is the thing people mention. All the over-done love has rightly spurred a slew of critical analyses from alternative sources. A new video by In The Now essentially remakes previous ones in shorter form, showing the "neutral and unarmed" heroes fighting with guns, in and out of uniform, rooting for and working with Al Qaeda's Syria branch Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN), etc. The White Helmets have gotten so much negative press and accrued so many haters, as they also scored a Netflix documentary to boost their shot at a Nobel peace Prize (a chance now formally missed)... well, by now it feels a bit overplayed and I've mostly sat out adding to the noise.  But a few related points that are not as well covered yet seem to merit a post finally.

The impetus behind the creation of their creation by Western experts and Muslim allies  is clear - they finally brings a ray of hope amid the  grinding proxy war waged by brutal Islamists sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. So as this and/or the government's response causes increasing death and destruction, they sponsor rescuers too. Now besides armed Islamists, we have usually unarmed Islamists running towards cameras on a daily basis with living babies: One was SAVED! Hope emerges from the rubble! That's a more inspiring and less draining narrative. See inspirational cartoon here. It really re-energized the intervention, maight give it two years more before it's allowed to end.

Many videos include the now-famous  scene where civil defense men in uniform (gray overalls with logo on the back) wait by for a man to be shot dead by an Islamist militant, then rush the body away. The organization tried to argue around this, but failed - they're documented assistants to terrorist killings. (ACLOS discussion, May, 2015)

This is perhaps a good visualization and sort of tip of the iceberg for other things they might do. Some good evidence suggests, but doesn't prove, that the White Helmets have since their inception in (early 2015?) helped launder the murder of many thousand civilians, including women and children, in false-flag events meant to demonize Syria and its allies. The following two major and inter-related points explore this possibility with semi-detailed consideration of the available evidence.

1) White Helmets Covering Up Genocidal Massacres?
1a) "Shabiha" Means What?
Also widely-featured, and deservedly so, is the elderly "Syrian Civil Defense" worker who says with a creepy smile how they take "the bodies of Shabiha and throw them in the trash" (see Vanessa Beeley, the White Helmets' premier critic). "Trash" here probably means an unmarked mass grave.

Some say these "Shabiha" are genocidal maniacs, and whether killed in fighting or executed, would deserve an improper burial. The term is an Islamist rebel nickname for the National Defense Forces (NDF), previously called Popular Committees (Lijan Shabiya). Their cartoon villain version are taken as basically an Alawite death cult blamed for hundreds of inflammatory massacres of Sunni families. (see ACLOS).

But comment might be more insidious than people realize; it might be a slip admission of the general genocide program the "White Helmets" are part of. Research suggests that many or all of the massacres blamed on them were actually done by terrorists, and "Shabiha" sometimes means Syrians of the Alawi faith, regardless of fighting status with the NDF or otherwise, and sometimes regardless of age and gender. 

Consider the August, 2013 Latakia village massacres by JaN, Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS, and others in a broad team effort (ACLOS). They boasted of killing 170-240 of "Assad's men" or "Shabiha" during their offensive and occupation about ten villages near the Turkish border (they had Turkish assistance). In reality, per Human Rights Watch (and it seems good work for once), the "rebels" killed about 30+ soldiers in the takeover, and then killed around 115 civilian men, and a combined 75 women and children (mostly those who tried to run away, and some women they raped). That's a total of 220+ killed, proably incomplete, and the same 240 "Shabiha" rebels proudly killed, and "threw in the trash" as some would say. They also took some 225 women and children hostage, leaving no one alive and at liberty. The victims were all Alawi (Alawites), the religion of president Assad. It was a clearly sectarian massacre by the Sunni extremists.
Note: there were no White Helmets at this time to help launder the massacre. Here's a video the opposition's pathetic attempt to put a humanitarian spin on their occupation of the area, using a blood-smeared ambulance sponsored by "Medical Relief for Syria" and a couple of obvious actors to claim the "FSA" was in charge and never harmed an innocent Alawite, and in fact happily helped them deliver babies. (see notes here and note credible reports say the massacre included an Alawi baby beheaded and a pregnant woman cut in half - Steele, Guardian.)

Like the mythical Assad mentality of 'all Sunnis are terrorists,' the terrorists among the Sunnis really seem to think all Alawi are "Shabiha," or will be when they grow up, or are anyway fit to kill or steal. These will be some of the people murdered (mostly the men) and taken as hostages and/or human shields (women and children). Those might be variously used, released in exchanges, or simply killed whenever the terrorists want to blame something on the "Assad regime" or on Russia.

1b) Recent Cases of Note
Now consider some more recent incidents after "Civil Defense" appeared, starting with the Hayan missile massacre of August 12, 2016. Here, in an area run by Jabhat al-Nusra, north of Aleppo, we see a White Helmet sans helmet running with a dead and decaying child, while another man who seems in no hurry carries a living and apparently unharmed baby, for no clear reason. The dead child here is one among a reported 12 women and children just killed by a Russian jet strike. Activists say that came during or just after the daily cease-fire, as they walked with no male escorts in a barren industrial area a ways from town. 

However, there's no clear sign of a bomb impact, and the victims are decaying, probably dumped here after being killed somewhere else. The opposition VDC's records said at least 9 of these were from a Qraitem family - 4 women and 5 children, with 3 other children unclear, and no men killed with them. They may be executed; a boy has the top of his head sliced off, and a girl has a neat hole in the bridge of her nose (others are unclear).  The same VDC records show 3 men named Qraitem were killed at the end of July, with no women or children, also killed by "warplane shelling." Rather, it seems they were all gender-segregated hostages, killed in shifts. Further, the mothers having the same name as their husbands and children is unusual, and suggests this family was not devout Sunni, perhaps Christian or other non-Muslim. (there is or was a Yazidi village nearby, and the Shia villages of Foua and Kafr Aya were still holding out to the north).

Among the few more recent allegations provided by the White Helmets I've paused to examine, was crushed women in Rastan - another couple where the wife took her husband's name is involved. They became "displaced" (abducted?) from Homs, and died this day by government bombing in rebel-held Rastan along with another woman. The one woman shown seems to be previously stabbed in the head, but that's not certain.

On September 19, the White Helmets, via their local director Ammar al-Selmo, helped explain how Syrian and Russian forces destroyed the Red Crescent humanitarian aid convoy near Aleppo (ACLOS). It's not a possible genocidal massacre, but worth mentioning here. Over a dozen trucks of aid were destroyed, and it seems perhaps every person helping wound up dead, leaving no survivors. WH claim this is because the attack was so intense they couldn't get near for hours, as people bled to death. Otherwise, they brag of rushing into danger. Do note this wouldn't explain people found alive but wounded all dying eventually.

(edit: Oct 25) Research and analysis suggest the aid convoy was attacked by terrorists on the ground (probably of Noureddin al-Zenki, JaN allies), and its members were likely executed. If this is so, the White Helmets here probably had to know they were helping cover that up. The motive is quite clear: to prevent a wider war against JaN and hopefully to secure war against Russian and Syrian forces instead (see here). The means (control of the area, willingness to murder and lie, and weaponry) are all consistent; all attack site details we can see (so far) are consistent with land-based weapons rebels have - mortars, guns, rockets, RPGs, and the biggest blasts could be caused by a standard "Hell Cannon" round. No one has proven if there was airstrike aspect, but if there was ... we'd need to see good proof who it was. The same motive issues argue against it being Russia or Syria, and for it being someone (US or Turkey?) on JaN's side.(end edit Oct. 25)

On October 16 and 17 claims of whole families were reportedly killed under Russian bombs in East Aleppo. CNN. BBC, etc. cite the US-UK-created White Helmets and French-created Aleppo Media Center to blame more Russian' "bunker-buster" bombs for killing 20 from one family. Records show at least 20 from one family and 13 from another were killed in these two days (note Oct. 25: but the days are disagreed), with an unusually large number of girls and small number of men. Eight young children are shown in photos and videos, wrapped for burial but still in their clothes, all appearing non-mangled and possibly executed, one perhaps with a sliced-open face. (see ACLOS discussion)

2) First Appearances: Idlib, March 2015, Covering for Chemical Murder Along With JaN
Our first notice of civil defense (at ACLOS) was in the spring of 2015, in Sarmin, Idlib province. This is where alleged Germany bomb plot suspect Jaber al-Bakr later did "humanitarian work" with the White Helmets and Ahrar al-Sham, in  between stints learning about explosives with Islamic State in Raqqah. (see Christoph Germann, Newsbud) Idlib province is now "liberated" by Islamists and "Talibanized." "No religious minorities remain," after fleeing, forced conversion, or - perhaps - murder or abduction. (Landis and Simon at Foreign Affairs)

That's the situation after the late March, 2015 Turkish-engineered conquest of most of Idlib province by a coalition of Islamist forces led by JaN. The White Helmets were emerging by, at the latest, two weeks before this grand offensive. They appeared at least in Sarmin in connection with an alleged chlorine gas attack, via helicopter-dropped "barrel bomb," on the night of March 16. This is said to have killed a family of 6, including 3 babies seen dying on video, as later shown at the United Nations by ambassador Samantha Power for emotional effect (BBC). Clearly, this is an important incident, and one we studied in depth (ACLOS (talk) page). 

2a) WH-JaN Cooperation on Sarmin Attack Media Message
Evident from that time was the solid crossover of members and interests between Idlib Civil Defense and the ruling terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN). The video collaboration, is one obvious sign. One apparent White Helmet, but allowed to work without the uniform, is seen here hosting daylight videos for JaN's Sarmin branch (the logo is JaN flag flying from a golden "Sarmin" in Arabic - سارمين ) Dubbed Mr. 21 for the number on his sleeve, he's explaining the previous night's alleged chlorine attack. (ACLOS)

Below the same expert is seen the night before - still not in full uniform or even helmet. He's sent with another WH rescuer in full uniform with a helmet camera, as they rush to the site of the alleged chlorine attack. Already he seems to know a lot about the crime scene and guides the other guy, but no people are left to rescue. And the other guy seems to run like hell at the sight of what looks like massive pools of blood.

2b) Running With a Baby
The next glimpse the morning of March 17, also in Sarmin  - a video stamped with the JaN logo, analyzed here at ACLOS, shows an odd sequence including the first noted White Helmet running-with-a-baby scene. An ambulance races to the scene of reported violence, trailed by a cameraman as it turns down an alley to a smoking site with rubble. But it seems nothing happened here and everyone turns around. Then a large truck pulls into the intersection from the south (see map below), effectively blocking the ambulance in. 

Just then, a van arrives from the north, and a few men rush out. One carries a baby, and another following wears a gas mask. This Jabhat al-Nusra cameraman follows, and they all pile into another van yet facing east in the intersection. It has the now famous blue-and-yellow civil defense logo in the rear window. Hurriedly, they drive off to the east, the gas mask man now holding the baby, who seems okay except for bloody socks, but curious what the hell was going on.

This is one of the strange things they're involved in, perhaps a clue where the White Helmets get all these babies from to be seen running with. The van came from the north; a ways to the north are the Shia villages of Foua and Kafraya, still holding out against rebel occupation but occasionally raided, with abduction. There are other people, Shia or otherwise, worth stealing in other areas too - besides other reasons they had this injured baby.

2c) Tennari's Clinic, Non-Chlorine Deaths, White Helmets, and "Fate"
That baby winds up in a certain clinic, shown to have a genuine foot injury under those socks, and now cries in pain. This place is called Field Clinic in Sarmin, supported by various charities, including Doctors Without Borders, and was run by Dr. Mohammed Tennari. This member of the Syrian-American Medical Society later emerged as a prolific, globe-trotting, and ridiculously unreliable propagandist. He's seen here (on the left) speaking to the US congress with his translator, Mouaz Moustafa, director of war freak John McCain's Syrian Emergency Task Force.

We later placed that clinic (center on larger map above, and see below).

Dr. Tennari would report his clinic struck by 11 airstrikes, with the last one, in October 2015, blamed on Russia and completely destroying it (ACLOS). As proof, they have a photo of a room clearly trashed by people inside, with no walls or windows damaged. White Helmets video shows the two blasts were both half a block away, and we can see the cameraman injured in the blast gets up and limps into the untouched clinic.

Back to the alleged chlorine attack this first sighting centers around - the victims were seen dead or dying in this same clinic. This was given as the Taleb family - 3 young children (aged 1-3), the mother, the father, and paternal grandmother. They supposedly were fatally exposed in their basement apartment. Somehow despite the caustic gas burning their lungs, they never figured out how to walk out of the two open doors or the giant hole in the wall seen on video (see above). Note: chlorine does not make you pass out or anything - it motivates you to get get to fresh air ... except with everyone in this family?

The rescuers seen here seem to be proper White Helmets only in part. Some men in civilian clothes do the baby-running here, after men in traditional firefighter garb hose them down. (right: baby Sara rushed into the clinic by a man in a gas mask) Others in white helmets assist, stand aside, or record videos. Some wear the proper uniform, but it seems they don't have the logos on the back, while scenes from Sarmin ten days later do show the logo there (new uniforms, impostors, or what? ACLOS discussion)

Interestingly, the Civil Defense logo appears on ubiquitous blankets used at Tennari's clinic that night, but done in gold and black, instead of the usually gold and blue. One of these is used to cover the babies' dead grandmother Ayosh. She's laid out in the emergency room, not the morgue, for lack of space they say. Then the dead or dying girls Sara and Aysha were rushed in and laid on top of her for failed resuscitation efforts. See below, a screen grab from JaN's video, and I just noticed that blanket has the White Helmets logo with Jabhat al-Nusra in Idlib colors! What an appropriate design for this cooperative venture!
Again, this is the clinic run by the shady Dr. Mohamed Tennari. He said he was there that night, leading the efforts to save those babies. There are two emergency room videos, one by JaN and one by the Idlib Civil Defense, that between them cover the crucial five minutes as the children die. These show Dr. Tennari was not present at all (see Where was Dr. Tennari?). He also makes nonsense claims: chlorine fumes off the babies  made him sick and made  a nurse faint. But chlorine doesn't cause fainting, nor does it rise and cause secondary exposure - especially from people that were were already stripped and washed.

A look at the children also reveals they were never exposed to chlorine. Instead of violent coughing, skin burns, red tearing eyes, they're pale, limp, unresponsive and don't even visibly breathe. In fact they seem dead; one reportedly was, the other two not. And infant Mohamed at least is just comatose; one attempted breath is seen on the White Helmets ER video, but before and after that, he appears dead. Further, no one in this "emergency room" does anything to help him breathe, and so he naturally dies (see What Killed the Talebs?).

The deaths are blamed on "Assad," and less directly on the world community's supposed inaction. Our best guess what killed these babies, based on the indicators, is a deliberate overdose with a CNS depressant drug, like morphine or demerol, aggravated by improper diagnosis and medical neglect. Grandma Ayosh actually appears more like a chlorine victim, but signs say chlorine was made at the apartment not by any bomb but by people pouring chemicals together in mass amounts. (the apparent pools of blood - see Terrible Flaws in OPCW's Syria chlorine investigation) The father isn't clearly seen, and the mother not at all, but it seems all too likely this whole family was somehow murdered with chemicals here in JaN turf.

So ... if there really was a place filled with chlorine, these babies were never in it, and so no one ever removed them from it. This disconnect may not have been known to everyone on the ground, but should have been clear enough to wonder about as they claimed with certainty just what happened.. Dr. Tennari, his colleagues in the nascent White Helmets, or at least Jabhat al-Nusra themselves must know who those Syrian people were, and why they had to die this way.

Who were the victims really? Dr. Tennari says the father, Waref al-Taleb, was a casual friends in town, who recently fixed his phone. But in an earlier report he called the Talebs strangers from the next town. By names, no other Talebs were killed in the area at this time, but grandma Ayosh apparently had several relatives in the Sarmin area killed by alleged regime bombing in the following days. (ACLOS)

As White Helmets chief Raed Saleh said in May, 2015 about this incident: “One of the children died in silence before we got to the hospital. We did what we could to save her, but dying in silence was her fate. Death in silence before the whole world.”" (The Guardian) The other two (Aysha and Mohammed) had the same basic fate, but they died after they got to that "emergency room." That really seems more like a dying and blame chamber, with clearly more care to documenting death than to preventing it.

In truth, this "fate" was determined not by God - theirs or anyone's - but by the foreign powers who have created the chronic motive for this endless death. Once it's uniformly blamed on "Assad" or allies, it all goes towards perpetuating and escalating the foreign intervention. And by the basic laws of supply and demand, the intervention's Islamist proxies in Syria keep supplying the corpses, whatever it takes.

And the White Helmets are often there to apportion some of the blame to "fate" (God's work) and other parts to "Assad" (the devil).