British blog writer Eliot Higgins, known for his credible observations on the civil war in Syria, opposes the allegations of Seymour Hersh, the American journalist who claims that the Turkish government behind the August 21st sarin attack in Damascus. Higgins claims that Volcano rockets were used in the attack and it was not possible for the rebels to have obtained such rockets.
In his interview with DİKEN, Hersh has claimed that Higgins’ criticisms were invalid. DİKEN now talks to Higgins himself, about the allegations that Hersh insists upon.
Hersh claims that this chemical facility center is somewhere around Aleppo. And he bases this claim on an (US) intelligence document he saw/has. What do you think? Is this possible?
It seems to me he doesn’t appreciate what an operation like that would involve. Sarin isn’t something you can just throw together anywhere, for the production of the amount of Sarin used on August 21st you need custom-built facilities with trained chemical engineers, not a bunch of jihadists and a kitchen sink. He doesn’t explain where certain key chemicals are made, Syria or Turkey? If it’s Turkey, then it would require a specialised factory producing chemicals that would be of great interest to various international watchdogs. Are we to believe Turkey has built this factory, kept it secret, and covered up records of chemicals being delivered to it, as well as hidden toxic waste streams coming from it? If Hersh has proof of this, then I think it would be very important and he should publish it. If not, that begs the question of how exactly Hersh thinks his chemical factory scenario works in a practical sense. It’s one thing to say you’ve got an anonymous source and you’ve got a piece of paper that says something, another to prove it’s feasible that the claims are actually true and Hersh has failed to do the latter.
His argument regarding ‘volcano rockets’ is this: If they are so important, why are the US and other allies not using it? Why do you think the US government hasn’t used your findings on this matter?
Keep in mind the UN/OPCW report described the munitions used in their report, which was later referenced by the US government, so they probably prefer to refer to a UN report in their official statements than ‘The Brown Moses Blog’. While I know my blog is discussed and followed at very high levels in various intelligence agencies and government departments, I expect there is certain degree of resistance to referring to the work of bloggers in public statements.
Hersh claims that it is not complex to build chemical production centers as people like Dan Kaszeta think. What do you think?
If Hersh believes that then I think he should explain it in more detail. Dan Kaszeta has spent a long time researching this and has decades of experience. It seems that rather than engaging in the debate, Hersh is more interested in dismissing a difficult question that undermines the narrative he’s tried to build.
He talks about your private communications with Theodore Postol and Richard Lloyd, arguing that in those you kind of/almost admitted that you were wrong. Would you like to respond?
This is not something I’ve said to Lloyd or Postol so I’m confused to where Hersh has got this from. I’ve sent a handful of e-mails to Postol and having checked them, they mostly refer to binary Sarin and binary warheads. I’m in very regular contact with Richard Lloyd and he told me today that he’s not spoken to Hersh since fall 2013 and hasn’t never told him anything like that. So, again, I’m confused to where Hersh got this information from and I hope he can get a correction from his source.
He argues that the Syrian Army is not that stupid to send rockets that can’t go more than 1 mile range, saying such thing would be suicide. Do you see any merit? (Hersh also refers to the press conference held by Ake Sellström, the head of the United Nations mission in Syria.)
Hersh has demonstrated his limited understanding of Sarin already. To begin with, he refers to it as a ‘toxic gas’ and Sarin is a liquid, so that’s pretty basic stuff. Based on Richard Lloyd’s calculations, which I’m sure Hersh believes are reliable, the Sarin would have been no danger to government troops a mile away based on the conditions on August 21st. If Hersh believes otherwise I invite him to present analysis that proves his case. I don’t think when we’re accusing the Turkish government of being involved in such a huge conspiracy it’s too much to ask for details, rather than vague theories and hand-waving.
Also, regarding the rockets and range, I believe Hersh has failed to appreciate the evidence that’s available and missed or ignored key information. In an interview with Democracy Now, Hersh talks about the rockets used being homemade and not being used by the Syrian military. This would suggest Hersh is either ignorant of the facts, or just ignoring them. Two types of rockets were used in the attack, one was a Soviet M14 artillery rocket, certainly not homemade. The second a type of munition was previously unknown to most people, which I assume is was Hersh is referring to as ‘homemade’. Videos and photographs from both sides of the conflict have shown the Syrian military using this type of munitions since late 2012, with both an explosive and chemical warhead, and it’s clear the rockets (known as Volcanoes) are used by the Syrian military. These are basic facts, yet Hersh appears to be unaware of them in his Democracy Now interview.
It’s therefore interesting that in his interview with your publication he seems not only aware of them, but also my work on the rockets going back months. How this sudden recollection has come about is unknown but he swiftly dismisses my concerns by focusing on the range of the rockets, 2 km, suggesting this could only mean they were launched from opposition territory. I’ve spent the past 8 months studying the positions of the front-lines on August 21st, and my research (using a wide variety of sources) shows the front-lines were 2 km away from the furthest impact sites on August 21st. Hersh may have been confused by the White House report, which inaccurately claims the front-lines were around 6 km.
Considering the severity of the claims Hersh is making, he seems to find it difficult to engage in a debate about points that are crucial to the veracity of his narrative.