[Vredeslijst] Ander Nieuws week 27: Amerikaanse leugens over vermeende gifgasaanval door Assad

Jeff meisner op xs4all.nl
Do Jul 13 13:55:31 CEST 2017

On 2017-07-03 21:50, vredesnieuws op vredesmedia.nl wrote:

> Onderzoeksjournalist Seymour Hersh onthult Amerikaanse leugens over
> vermeende gifgasaanval door Assad
> (http://www.vredessite.nl/andernieuws/2017/week27/0629-syria-lies-sarin.html)

[Note: By posting and forwarding such content, the editors of Ander 
Nieuws are equally responsible for dignifying such lies, as is rightly 
denounced in the following opinion piece. Chemical warfare denial in 
2017 is morally equivalent to Holocaust denial but more harmful in 
practice: it involves not past history but the continuing tragedy in 
Syria. - JM]

Al Jazeera - Opinion - Middle East
12 July 2017



     By publishing Seymour Hersh's latest 'fiction'
     on Syria, German daily Die Welt served as a
     conduit for disinformation.

By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

On June 29, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons 
(OPCW) published a comprehensive report confirming that the nerve agent 
used in the Syrian regime's April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed 
92 was sarin. The conclusion was no surprise. The World Health 
Organisation (WHO) and Doctors Without Borders (known by its French 
initials, MSF) had already found the symptoms of the victims consistent 
with exposure to a nerve agent. In a separate analysis, the French 
government had matched sarin samples from the site to regime stock. A 
Human Rights Watch investigation also found the regime responsible for 
this and three other chemical attacks since December, and said the 
latest attack was "part of a broader pattern of Syrian government 
forces' use of chemical weapons".

However, the response from the regime and its supporters followed a 
familiar pattern. There was denial, deflection and deception. There were 
conspiracy theories. There was whataboutery. But effluvia from this dung 
heap merely fouled the air until it was ignited into a noxious fire by 
an inveterate pyromaniac. Enter Seymour Hersh.

Seymour Hersh, a once celebrated journalist, has been reluctant to cede 
the limelight. But the pride of place that he earned through hard work 
he now wants to keep by trading on his legacy alone. Hersh, who once did 
the legwork for his stories - finding sources, corroborating claims, 
verifying evidence - is now relying on the uncorroborated claims of 
anonymous sources to tell tall tales that contradict available evidence. 
The man who broke world-changing stories from My Lai to Abu Ghraib now 
hops from publication to publication, writing sensational drivel, 
sullying his reputation and diminishing his publishers'.

His latest story, published in the German daily Die Welt, was a 
colourful rendition of an extant conspiracy theory: that the deaths in 
Khan Sheikhoun did not result from a chemical attack but were caused by 
toxic discharge from a conventional attack on a jihadi facility. Based 
on the baroque testimony of an anonymous source, Hersh concludes that 
there was no sarin involved.

The OPCW report put an end to this nonsense. But more embarrassingly, 
Hersh's claims were contradicted even by the regime and Russia. His 
publisher, Die Welt, was left with egg on its face - much like the 
London Review of Books before, which had published his earlier forays 
into conspiracism (To its credit, the LRB declined to publish Hersh's 

This opprobrium is richly merited - but is it sufficient to discourage 
others from yielding to the click bait temptation?

Every publisher knows that conspiracism pays. Some of the internet's 
most visited sites traffic in conspiracy theories. Conspiracism flatters 
anti-establishment cynics by providing them with an adversarial posture, 
diluted of content but full of sound and fury. With the rise of 
populism, there is a vast reservoir of anti-establishment sentiment to 
be exploited. And with ad revenues increasingly tied to clicks, even 
respectable publications appear eager to tap into this pool. Hersh is 
useful because, regardless of the quality of his work, his oversized 
reputation allows them to access this resource without suffering much in 
the way of reputation.

A diligent editor could not have missed all the red flags raised by 
Hersh's recent stories. Both publications allowed Hersh to bring his own 
fact checkers, which is astonishingly cavalier considering the 
incendiary nature of his claims. But the notion was reduced to farce 
when Hersh used Scott Ritter as his fact-checker.

A one time UN weapons inspector whose reputation was built on his 
opposition to the Iraq war, Ritter has tried to deal with his recent 
loss of reputation (over personal indiscretions) by trying to build an 
audience on the conspiracist fringe. Since his release from prison, 
Ritter has shown a peculiar set of concerns, marking his return with an 
attack on the Syrian White Helmets. The attack was shoddy, much of it 
echoing extant conspiracy theories published on the alt-right conspiracy 
site 21stCenturyWire (an offshoot of Infowars). But it coincided with 
the Russian media's relentless campaign against the White Helmets aimed 
at denying them the Nobel Peace Prize. In subsequent articles, Ritter 
praised Trump for his overtures to Russia; cast doubt on intelligence 
reports about Russian hacking of the DNC; and credited Trump's claim 
that he was being wiretapped by the Obama administration.

But it's what came next that provides clues as to Hersh's source for his 
latest story and Die Welt's dereliction.

On April 9, Ritter wrote an article based on Russian claims that debuted 
the conspiracy theory that would later be embellished into the Die Welt 
article. After repeating the accusation that the deaths in Khan 
Sheikhoun were caused by the regime's targeting of an al-Qaeda facility, 
Ritter went on to casually blame the August 2013 Ghouta chemical attack 
on al-Qaeda and declared the White Helmets their accomplices. Two days 
later, Ritter signed an open letter to Trump with a group calling itself 
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) repeating the 
allegation, but citing as their source "Our US Army contacts". There is 
reason to doubt the existence of these "Army contacts".

In 2013, VIPS had written a similar open letter to Obama claiming that 
according to "numerous sources in the Middle East" the regime was 
innocent of the Ghouta chemical attack. Except, the article - including 
the reference to "numerous sources in the Middle East" - was plagiarised 
from the Canadian conspiracy site Globalresearch.ca. One signatory to 
this 2013 letter, former CIA officer Larry Johnson, is widely believed 
to be Hersh's source for his three LRB articles on Syria and bin Laden. 
Hersh has often relied on the VIPS for his stories. The group, made up 
of disgruntled former employees of the government, is also the likely 
source for his current article. In other words: the likely source for 
Hersh's "facts" was also his "fact checker".

Wittingly or not, it is by now clear that Hersh - and by extension Die 
Welt - served as a conduit for disinformation. For Die Welt to prove 
that it wasn't deliberately deceiving its audience, it will have to not 
just retract the story and apologise, it will also have to identify 
Hersh's anonymous source. There is no ethical justification for granting 
anonymity to someone who has deliberately tried to deceive.

Only by exposing such sources to public scrutiny will the press be able 
to discourage malicious parties from abusing confidentiality principles 
to advance dubious agendas.

      Muhammad Idrees Ahmad is Lecturer in Digital
      Journalism at the University of Stirling. He
      is a contributing editor at the Los Angeles
      Review of Books.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not 
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.


Will Get Fooled Again – Seymour Hersh, Welt, and the Khan Sheikhoun 
Chemical Attack
By Eliot Higgins, June 25, 2017

The Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack — Who Bombed What and When?
By Christiaan Triebert,  April 10, 2017

Russia admits sarin used in spite of Sy Hersh fantasy
July 10, 2017

OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Confirms Use of Chemical Weapons in Khan 
Shaykhun on 4 April 2017
OPCW, 30 June 2017

LIES of the Russian-Syrian regime story on Sarin gas debunked
SHIBLI ZAMAN 6 April 2017

Sarin gas deaths in Khan Sheikhoun: separating fact from fiction
Louis Proyect, 5 April 2017

Syria, Seymour Hersh and the Sarin denialists
Brian Whitaker, 1 July 2017

Listening to Seymour Hersh Ramble about His Supposed Inside Knowledge 
about Syria
by Stanley Heller, June 29, 2017

'Do you only care how we die?' Syrians ask why gas is the only red line
Salwa Amor, 8 April 2017

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