04.26.17

Explainers at NYTimes Strike Out on Sarin

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle at 12:52 pm by George Smith

The explainers at the NYT took to the front page on the web today in an attempt to discredit Syrian and Russian claims about the purported sarin gas attack in Syria. And they turn in an example of flawed product, something for the American establishment which believes the case to be open and shut.

In putting together the video production reporters Malachy Brown, Natalie Renau and Mark Scheffler assiduously ignore the work of emeritus MIT prof Theodore Postol who has spent the last two weeks on the same matter at TruthDig. And this is terribly odd since Postol has been well known in the pages of major newspapers when it comes to big national security issues, like WMDs and missile defense, over the past couple of decades.

The Russian story rests on the idea that conventional strikes may have released a cloud of toxic chemicals or hit a cache of sarin. But “Assad and Russia are distorting the facts …, or similar phrasing, is asserted by the Times explainers’ at a number of points throughout the video presentation. Therefore, Syrian and Russian accounts are not trustworthy.

Initially, Postol focused on debunking a video intelligence report used by the White House to make the case that sarin has been used in Khan Sheikhoun.

Five days ago, at TruthDig, Postol:

The fact that there were numerous television journalists reporting from the alleged sarin release site and there was absolutely no mention of casualties that would have occurred within tens to hundreds of meters of the alleged release site indicates that the [White House Report] was produced without even a cursory low-level review by the U.S. intelligence community of commercial video data from the site. This overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the [WhiteHouse Report] identification of the crater as a sarin release site should have been accompanied with an equally solid identification of the area where casualties were caused by the alleged aerosol dispersal. The details of the crater itself unambiguously show that it was not created by the alleged airdropped sarin dispersing munition.

These new details are even more problematic because the [White House Report] cited commercial video as providing information that the report used to derive its conclusions that there was a sarin attack from an airdropped munition at this location …


The mainstream media is the engine of democracy. Without an independent media providing accurate and unbiased information to citizens, a government can do pretty much what it chooses without interference from the citizens who elected it. The critical function of the mainstream media in the current situation should be to report the facts that clearly and unambiguously contradict government claims.

This has so far not occurred, and this is perhaps the biggest indicator of how incapacitated the mechanisms for democratic governance of the United States have become.

Again, why is this relevant with regards to the NYT report on the sarin attack?

Because in the latter part of it, Times reporters turn to what looks like the very same crater in the middle of a street in Khan Sheikhoun as the source point for the sarin attack.

Malachy Brown, Natalie Renau and Mark Scheffler are certainly aware of Postol’s reports at the Times. Since this is the case, they appear to have written it off because of its clash with their report, “How Syria and Russia Spun a Chemical Strike” and the report from the White House.

Today at TruthDig Postol returns to the case, this time dealing with the same video employed by the Times, pictures of a conventional aerial assault on Khan Sheikhoun the morning of the gas attack. Russia’s story is essentially that a conventional aerial bombardment might have released or led to conditions that resulted in the dispersal of a toxic material.

These explosions are explained away as irrelevant by the Times’ journalists.

Writes Postol in “Russian Explanation of the Mass Poisoning in Syria Could Be True:”

Videos taken on the morning of the attack show explosive debris clouds from four targets that were hit and provide strong circumstantial evidence that this Russian explanation could be true.

One of the clouds is quite distinctly different from all the others. The stem of this debris cloud has a base area that is five or more times larger than the cloud-stem bases of the other bomb debris clouds. The evidence is consistent with the possibility that this debris cloud was created by an initial explosion, followed by a series of secondary explosions. This situation would be expected if the site was, in fact, an ammunition dump.

Postol goes onto posit that secondary explosions from the initial bombing run could have been reponsible, as the Russians said, of a toxic release in the city.

“This evidence is not proof that the Russian explanation for a mass poisoning is correct,” adds Postol. “But given that there is no evidence to support the American alternative explanation—a sarin release from an airdropped munition at a site identified by the White House Intelligence Report—this additional data does provide some information that is relevant to the ongoing discussions on this matter.”

The beginning of the TruthDig piece contains a biographical paragraph describing Postol’s decades long history as an expert analyst and critic on national defense issues.

Overlooking Postol’s work is folly. The current establishment line that whatever is claimed by Russia is to be regarded as nonsense or “distortions” is not conducive to critical thinking. Furthermore, it breaks one of the corrective measures of a sound democracy, as warned by Postol on the very same subject. The Times would do well to look into comparing its work with his.

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