The OPCW’s Fall – Just Another Suborned and Discredited International Body

The latest report from the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media provides sobering reading to anyone who thought this supposedly highly respected international body could maintain its credibility in the face of the current war on truth being prosecuted by the Western powers.

Entitled “How the OPCW’s investigation of the Douma incident was nobbled”, authors Paul McKeigue, David Miller, Jake Mason and Piers Robinson identify who seems to have been responsible for suppressing findings that cast doubt on the official US narrative concerning the use of chlorine gas in the supposed gas attack in Douma, Syria in April 2018. The effect of this suppression was the support for an impression that chlorine gas had possibly been used by the Syrian government when this was unlikely based on the evidence and the assessment of the investigators who examined the site.

The Working Group’s earlier report “Briefing note on the final report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission on the alleged chemical attack in Douma in April 2018” found serious discrepancies in the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission’s final report into the Douma events.

“The conduct of this investigation by the past and present Director-General violates rules laid down in the Chemical Weapons Convention and brings OPCW into disrepute. On the evidence of this and the defects we have identified in previous reports of Fact-Finding Missions, OPCW is not fit to be entrusted with a remit “to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic”, assigned by a resolution adopted by the Conference of the States Parties on 27 June 2018. It is doubtful whether the organizations’s reputation as an impartial monitor of compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention can be restored without radical reform of its governance and working practices.”

The Working Group’s report summary of how this happened reads as follows:

  • The creation in 2014 of a new mechanism – the “Fact-Finding Mission in Syria” (FFM) – to investigate alleged chemical attacks allowed the OPCW to bypass the procedures laid down in the Chemical Weapons Convention for investigations of alleged use, and to set its own rules for these investigations.
  • The roles of the Director-General and the newly appointed director of the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) are mostly ceremonial. The effective boss of the OPCW is the Chief of Cabinet Sébastien Braha, a French diplomat, and the Principal Investigator of the IIT is Elise Coté, a Canadian diplomat. Although these individuals have obvious conflicts of interest in relation to Syria, the OPCW lacks any procedure for managing such situations.
  • The Technical Secretariat’s excuse for suppression of the Engineering Assessment – that evidence that the cylinders were manually placed rather than dropped from the air is “outside of the mandate and methodology of the FFM” – is fallacious and contradicts OPCW’s published reports on the Douma incident.
  • It was already clear from open source evidence, as we pointed out in an earlier briefing note, that the Interim and Final Reports of the FFM on the Douma incident had been nobbled. Our sources have now filled in some of the details of this process. Specifically:
  • From examination of three earlier FFM reports on incidents in 2015 or 2017 where Phillips was the Team Leader, it is clear that these reports also excluded or ignored evidence that these alleged chemical attacks had been staged. Specifically:
  • This indicates that the suppression of the Engineering Assessment of the Douma incident was not an isolated aberration. In this context it is relevant that the opposition-linked NGOs on which the FFM has relied for evidence since 2014 have dubious provenance, and at least some of them have been set up under UK tutelage.
  • The credibility of the OPCW cannot be restored simply by finding some way to reverse what were purported to be the findings of the FFM on the Douma incident, but only by an independent re-examination of all its previous investigations of alleged chemical attacks in Syria, and a radical reform of its governance and procedures.
  • To resolve the discrepancy between the conclusions of the internal Engineering Assessment and those of the Final Report, a first step would be to make public the assessments of the external engineering experts on whom the Final Report relied. The engineering assessments were based on observations of the cylinders and measurements at the locations where they were found. As the cylinders, tagged and sealed by the OPCW inspectors, are in the custody of the Syrian government, it is feasible to undertake an independent study to determine whether the conclusions of earlier engineering assessments can be replicated. For such a study to be credible, it would have to be undertaken by a panel independent of OPCW, in accordance with methods for reproducible research.

Its no great surprise that the US and its minions have suborned yet another supposedly independent world body. And it’s no wonder there are so many people around who seem to have checked out either in denial or outrage fatigue. The OPCW joins a long list of bodies people thought made up an international “rule of law” or “rules based order” that seems to have been dismantled before our eyes.

Maybe it was just a fantasy that such a thing as a “rules based order” could be real and we’ve been conned all along. But the list gets ever longer so that it extends beyond bodies like the United Nations, International Court of Justice, World Bank and IMF to include previously respected NGO’s like Amnesty International, HRW and a host of other supposedly humanitarian organisations that have been revealed to be merely instruments of the US empire and its corporate masters and powerful elites.

A realpolitik view of the world would be that it is naive in the extreme to have ever harboured illusions of a real rules based order. That this account is merely a fantasy the public is sold to create a fairy-tale world in which good prevails over evil and fair practices and even-handed justice can and will be the basis for dealings between people and nations.

This perversion of what ordinary people would consider ideals of justice and truth is now the assumed way of those in power. In the words of Karl Rove – arch neocon and Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to former President George W. Bush:

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Karl Rove

As is evident in so many actions of the US empire and its rulers over the last 70 years, the rules based order means whatever suits those with the money and the power. The reality is we are living by rule of the jungle and rule of law means nothing other than whatever those with the power want it to.

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