The first report of the famous and respected foreign affairs journalist Robert Fisk has given us a bombshell first-hand account in The Independent which runs contrary to almost every claim made by US, UK and NATO propaganda machines concerning the alleged chemical weapons attack on April 7th in an embattled suburb outside Damascus: not only has the veteran journalist found no evidence of a mass chemical attack, but he’s encountered multiple local eyewitnesses who experienced the chaos of that night, but who say the gas attack never happened.
Fisk is the first Western journalist allowed to enter and report from the site of the alleged chemical weapons incident which has been widely blamed on Assad’s troops. Reporting from Douma in eastern Ghouta, Fisk interviewed a Syrian doctor who works at the hospital shown in one of the well promoted videos released by a major news network which purports to depict victims of a chemical attack.
The report, published late in the day Monday, has mainstream media in uproarwith their video, released minutes after the Saudi-sponsored jihadist group Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) accused the Syrian Army of gassing civilians showing rescue workers (with not a haz – mat suit in sight,) treating those injured by the ‘neve agent’ by splashing water in their eyes. As politicians, in britain especially, uncritically promoting the “Assad gassed his own people” narrative as an already cemented and “proven” fact based on the word of a notoriously brutal armed group of rapists, murderers and head amputators who itself has admitted to using chemical weapons on the Syrian battlefield in prior years. Also notable is that no journalist or international observer was anywhere near Douma when the purported chemical attack took place, the rebel held areas of Syria having become unsafe for any westerner in 2016. There’s not much point being on the spot to report your own murder.
Controversy erupted immediately after Fisk’s report, especially as he is among the most recognizable names in the past four decades of Middle East war reporting, having twice won the British Press Awards’ Journalist of the Year prize and as seven time winner of the British Press Awards’ Foreign Correspondent of the Year (the NY Times has referred to him as “probably the most famous foreign correspondent in Britain” while The Guardian has called him “one of the most famous journalists in the world”). An Arabic speaker, Fisk became famous for being among the few reporters in history to conduct face-to-face interviews with Osama bin Laden, which he did on three occasions between 1993 and 1997.
Fisk says he was able to walk around and investigate newly liberated Douma without Syrian government or Russian minders (in part this is likely because he has reported from inside Syria going back decades, in war-torn 1982 Hama, for example), and he begins his account as follows:
This is the story of a town called Douma, a ravaged, stinking place of smashed apartment blocks–and of an underground clinic whose images of suffering allowed three of the Western world’s most powerful nations to bomb Syria last week. There’s even a friendly doctor in a green coat who, when I track him down in the very same clinic, cheerfully tells me that the “gas” videotape which horrified the world– despite all the doubters–is perfectly genuine.
War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.
Fisk goes on to identify the doctor by name – Dr. Assim Rahaibani – which is notable given the fact that all early reporting from Douma typically relied on “unnamed doctors” and anonymous opposition sources for early claims of a chlorine gas attack (lately morphed into an unverified “mixed” chlorine-and-sarin attack).
The doctor’s testimony is consistent with that of the well-known Syrian opposition group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which initially reported based on its own pro-rebel sourcing that heavy government bombardment of Douma city resulted in the collapse of homes and underground shelters, causing civilians in hiding to suffocate.
According to SOHR, which has long been a key go-to source for mainstream media over the course of the war, “70 of them [women and children] have suffered suffocation as a result of the demolition of home basements over them due to the heavy and intense shelling.”
Though outlets from The Guardian to The Washington Post to The New York Times have quoted SOHR on a near daily basis throughout the past six years of war, the anti-Assad opposition outlet’s reporting of mass asphyxiation due to collapse of shelters has been notably absent from the same publications.
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