In our first article about Tom Nichols, a professor at the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, we noted his badly mistaken August 2013 prediction that the Russians not only wouldn’t intervene to block a U.S. military overthrow of the Assad government in Syria, but that they lacked the will AND capabilities to do so. For an expert in Soviet and Russian studies, one would expect a dramatic breach between his low expectations of Russian military capabilities and the reality of pro-Assad forces winning in Syria with strong Russian support to produce some reevaluation.
Unfortunately, if Prof. Nichols has engaged in any such reflections, his Twitter feed and public writings give no indication of it -- only of greater certitude regarding Russian perfidy and the righteousness of American foreign policy in Ukraine. Speaking in an interview with PBS featured host Tavis Smiley, Nichols declared that President Trump's recently ordered Tomahawk missile strike confirmed his view that the U.S. could have intervened much more aggressively and far earlier against the Assad regime (say back in August-September 2013) without facing Russian retaliation.
Of course, lacking a crystal ball to accurately predict the future is only human. In a post-election mea culpa last November, Nichols admitted to his Twitter followers that as a #NeverTrump Republican, he failed to gauge the mood of the country. For a few days after Trump's stunning win and humiliation of the Bos-Wash corridor that largely disdained if not hated him, Nichols seemed a bit more humble. Nonetheless, the endorsement by three intelligence agencies of a partisan, politicized ‘Russians hacked the DNC to undermine Hillary Clinton’ Narrative with the CIA, FBI and NSA claiming to speak unanimously for the entire U.S. IC (sweeping away any reasonable doubts regarding hacking attribution or the Democrats’ emails being released to Wikileaks by disgruntled insiders such as the murdered Seth Rich) has compounded Nichols' Cold War 2.0 waging position. The unforced failures of the Administration and President Trump's reliance on his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner have also in Nichols' Twitter feed vindicated his #NeverTrump position. Yet like many other harsh critics of the President hailing from the neolibcon Establishment, Nichols seemed pleased with the Tomahawk cruise missile strikes of April 6, 2017.
Nonetheless, Nichols’ recent cheap shots at a fellow New England academic in the guise of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former arms control adviser to the U.S. government Theodore Postol reveal the real Tom Nichols: a petty, school-marmish peddler of failing invade the world, invite the world globalism. And one who like the crazy leftoid snowflakes he correctly mocks in academia, requires 'safe spaces' and the instantly used block button on Twitter to protect himself from 'conspiratorial' views like those of Prof. Postol. Dismissing a respected academic like Postol as a 'conspiracy theorist' for daring to challenge the veracity of the National Security Council and alleged U.S. intelligence community conclusions used to justify the Al-Shayrat air base strikes is hardly the first time Nichols has had a problem with the truth.
As we wrote in Lugenkriegsakademie (Lying War Academy) Part 1, Nichols’ #NeverTrump er position compelled him to promote a false narrative about then Trump aide Corey Lewandowski, claiming that the Massachussetts native had roughed up then reporter Michele Fields. Aside from being a multi-time Jeapardy! champion, Nichols' claim to fame on Twitter prior to July 2014 was defending the ‘NSA can do no wrong’ views and insults hurled at the taxpaying public from his then USNWC colleague John R. Schindler (who was later forced to resign from the Newport, Rhode Island institution). During the 2016 campaign, as he took a hard line #NeverTrump er position, Nichols affirmed that widespread rumors about Hillary Clinton's serious health issues were ridiculous right until the moment on September 11, 2016 when HRC collapsed (aides later said she fainted) in New York City:
Eagerly re-tweeting (which presumably in this case does add up to some sort of endorsement) of amateur ‘open source sleuth’ Eliot Higgins also undermines the core message of his book, The Death of Expertise, that American society fails to give experts their due -- since expertise is not respected if it doesn’t ‘get with the program’ of supporting U.S. foreign policy claims abroad. Whereas if an unemployed World of Warcraft gamer with far too much time on his hands sitting in Leicester, England produces what he claims are conclusions supporting U.S./UK intelligence and media arguments, then his lack of training in the relevant disciplines of rocketry, Soviet/Russian SAMs, and chemical warfare is completely irrelevant to his ‘findings’. And legacy media making a mascot out of him for lack of experts willing to go on the record with them or convincing U.S. intelligence is by no means an example of amateurishness triumphing over expertise. If Tom Nichols thinks otherwise regarding the cult of Bellingcat, he's never said so in any public forum we're aware of.
From ZeroHedge, here’s the bio of Ted Postol, which shows a serious amount of expertise Nichols’ cannot refute, so he simply dismisses as ‘conspiracy theory’. Prof. Postol has been a thorn in the rear end of now two Administrations’ Syria narratives since he slammed British blogger and Atlantic Council sock puppet Eliot Higgins’ conclusions that Assad’s forces and only Syrian government forces could’ve carried out the East Ghouta chemical attack in August 2013. Of course, the MSM in the tank for Higgins brand have, with a few exceptions, simply ignored Postol or another expert, Dr. Neal Krawerz’s dismissal of Higgins’ authoritative GoogleEarth and YouTube derived ‘evidence’ on multiple occasions:
Theodore A. Postol is a professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. Postol’s main expertise is in ballistic missiles. He has a substantial background in air dispersal, including how toxic plumes move in the air.
Postol has taught courses on weapons of mass destruction – including chemical and biological threats – at MIT. Before joining MIT, Postol worked as an analyst at the Office of Technology Assessment, as a science and policy adviser to the chief of naval operations, and as a researcher at Argonne National Laboratory. He also helped build a program at Stanford University to train mid-career scientists to study weapons technology in relation to defense and arms control policy. Postol is a highly-decorated scientist, receiving the Leo Szilard Prize from the American Physical Society, the Hilliard Roderick Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Richard L. Garwin Award from the Federation of American Scientists.
Postol became a target of Nichols’ Establishmentarian ire last week, after publishing a multi-volume rebuttal (linked up at the end of this post) of the shoddy four page ‘assessment’ released by the Trump Administration’s National Security Council insisting that the militarily victorious Assad government had both means and motive to use chemical weapons against the Al-Qaeda and ‘moderate’ jihadist held Syrian town of Khan Shaykhoun in Idlib province earlier this month.
The questioning by numerous ‘Internet sleuths’ following Prof. Postol’s lead in asking how members of the (U.S./UK government funded) White Helmets organization were able to not only handle sarin gas victims without so much as rubber gloves or dust masks for their own protection, but also squat unprotected next to the crater left by a supposed sarin-encased bomb allegedly dropped from a Syrian Air Force jet was not welcomed, either by Nichols or Higgins. Nor did either man address the implausibility of the U.S. intelligence assessment that Assad used chemical weapons as a force multiplier and terror weapon because he feared the successes of the rebel north Hama offensive, days after the jihadists tactical gains had already been beaten back by Syrian artillery and Russian airpower.
Self-appointed chemical weapons expert Eliot Higgins, a graduate of what Nichols’ has previously railed against as ‘Google University’, was able to confidently declare that sarin nerve agent disperses quickly. The question then of why Japanese forensics experts wore chemical protective suits way back in the 1990s after the notorious Shoko Asahara sarin attack in Japan, even days after the chemical was dispersed at the crime scene, is left unanswered by Higgins rebuttal. Perhaps the White Helmets are simply more chemical tolerant than the Japanese or superhuman? The question of how sarin which is odorless and colorless would’ve left witnesses with a telltale smell and or been seen in a released cloud is also not to be pressed too much, lest the actual agent used be discovered to have been manufactured by the jihadists themselves.
The best Higgins' backstop for all things having to do with chemical warfare, former U.S Army chemical warfare expert Dan Kaszeta, could come up in response to widely discussed problems with the thesis (that sarin and only the Assad goverment’s internationally supervised, disposed of sarin could have been used at Khan Sheikhoun) was this:
Why then do emergency responders in more developed/better equipped situations train to wear full protective equipment? For several reasons. Emergency responders wear equipment that is prescribed through obeisance to occupational health and safety regulations, not a “what can I get away with and not die” ethos. Second, in the early stages of an incident, the chemical agent that was used may not be known. Even if you knew it was a nerve agent, you aren’t likely to know it was Sarin and not one of its more persistent cousins. VX, for example, is a different game altogether being primarily a contact/liquid hazard and requiring more skin protection when dealing with victims.
The bottom line is that Sarin evaporates quickly, not much is needed to do harm to people, and people who are exposed only to aerosol and vapour are a minimal contact or respiratory hazard to others. Even given this, some responders reported illness. So, the “Responders didn’t die on film so it wasn’t Sarin” is an incorrect line to take here and displays a basic ignorance of the facts.
To which one commenter replied at Bellingcat:
Ghostship - April 20, 2017
“there is a well-substantiated allegation that an air-dropped Sarin bomb was dropped.”
No there is not. All we have are reports from people on the scene who are mostly connected to HTS/Al Nusrah/Al Qaeda so not the most impartial of sources. Yet again Bellingcat decides on the conclusion then “fixes” the evidence to justify that conclusion – a habit frequently demonstrated by the UK government and HMG [Her Majesty’s Government]-funded NGOs.
BTW, someone who was part of a chemical warfare unit is most likely no more than a technician and not a expert in the field, so Bellingcat is using a “citizen scientist” to produce the conclusions of this report. Can’t HMG afford a scientist out of Porton Down?
frank - April 20, 2017
I am looking at 2013 NIOSH Sarin toxicity on pubmed, and I see skin human LD50 at 25 MICROgrams per kilo, and oral toxicity at 2micrograms per kilo. Data that Sarin is released from CLOTHING for 30 mins after exposure suggests that going anywhere near Sarin contaminated victims without the best protection would likely be fatal
- frank - April 20, 2017
Further info on Dans figures here https://www.nap.edu/read/5825/chapter/5#31 Seems skin toxicity not understood, with one subject out of 3 tested dying at 20mg exposure to flannel on skin
Tom Nichols does have a point about Ted Postol -- the MIT professor is not by training an expert on chemical warfare, but on rocketry and missiles. However, Postol teaches classes on the subject of WMDs -- including chemical and biological weapons -- in much the same way Nichols teaches political science and history at the USNWC, without necessarily being a trained expert in naval surface or submarine warfare. Postol has been an outspoken critic of U.S. and Israeli claims regarding the accuracy and efficacy of ‘hit to kill’ ballistic missile systems. But the lack of chemical warfare expertise of Eliot Higgins, or for that matter his incompetence in being able to distinguish Russian BUK SAMs photographed in Russia from Ukrainian BUKs operated by the Ukrainian military and posed by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) as THE Russian BUK that allegedly brought down MH17 has never concerned Nichols. Nor the fact that Eliot Higgins has never visited the eastern Ukraine or Syria, much less the Ghouta war crime scene or the fields where MH17 came down -- but Higgins' critic the Dutch independent investigator Max van der Werff did go there.
What van der Werff found in Donetsk and Lugansk contradicts both Bellingcat's hypothesized route of the Russian BUK derived from YouTube and social media postings, as well as the timing of any BUK launcher movements and the grainy, unverifiable nature of many videos purported to show the BUK's movements. Proving once again that, contrary to the assertions that all you need is an Internet connection and enough time on your hands to crowdsource the truth from social media postings, there is no substitute for going to the scene of the crime. Something no American, British or non-Turkish national investigator did prior to the Trump Administration acting as judge, jury and limited executioner to 'punish Assad' for the atrocity. Apparently, unlike in the aftermath of the East Ghouta false flag were doubts were permitted to creep into the official U.S. narrative, the neocons learned from Obama's failed 'red line' not to let enough time lapse before striking.
Here’s hoping the efforts of Higgins collaborator former U.S. Army CW specialist Dan Kaszeta, who readily appeared in 2013 when it became obvious to Eliot’s Atlantic Council/Google handlers that he wasn’t competent enough to argue about whose sarin was used at East Ghouta, are challenged soon with fresh evidence regarding the so-called ‘moderate rebels’ as well as ISIS manufacture of chemical weapons inside and outside of Syria. In particular, while Kaszeta has made a strong ase that sarin cannot be ‘made in the kitchen sink’ without poisoning or killing the bath tub chemical warriors making it, he has also not been able to argue that the Saudi and Turkish regimes known for their indifference to Kurdish or Yemeni civilian lives would be above making sarin or other nerve agents and providing it to their terrorist proxies in Syria. Nor can Google U prof. Higgins or U.S. Naval Twitter War College Prof. Nichols demonstrate how or where Assad successfully hid sarin bombs the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had certified under a UN Security Council mandate had been destroyed under the eyes of American intelligence/inspectors in 2014. Secretary of Defense James Mattis charge that Assad retained a few tons of nerve agent after 2014, which the hardly disinterested Israelis repeated, has yet to be substantiated with any evidence.
Given this absence of evidence supposedly not constituting evidence of absence, the National Security Council under Trump’s adviser H.R. McMaster had insinuated that perhaps the Russians stored the CW in their country or provided it to the Syrian military. But that speculation was quickly walked back in subsequent remarks of Secretaries of State Tillerson and Defense’ Gen. Mattis that the Khan Shaykhoun strikes were Syrian operations that didn’t need to involve the Russians. Secretary Tillerson made his remarks bashing the Russians prior to his meeting behind closed doors with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow stating that the Russians were either complicit or more likely incompetent in disposing of Assad’s CW arsenal. But the question of American competence in previously certifying the destruction of Assad’s CW while ensuring U.S. Sunni allies’ proxies weren’t manufacturing their own CW probably came up in that meeting, whose broad outlines the Russian Foreign Ministry did not release, most likely due to the tough language likely used.
The Russian Defense Ministry has certainly never shied away from pointing out not only ISIS and so-called moderate rebels use of the water purification and pool cleaning agent chlorine as a chemical weapon, but the fact that Syrian jihadists were capable of moving if not making nerve agents of their own. A State Department document from 2015, in which the Obama Administration boasted of its successful diplomacy backed by the threat of force to rid Assad of his CW, admits to the detection of nerve agents in blood samples from Syrian Arab Army soldiers. So either Assad gassed his own soldiers back then, the terrorists captured chemical warheads from Syrian Army stocks and the two pre-war CW facilities that fell out of Damascus control during the war, or the SAA servicemen were gassed using agents manufactured by the jihadists or their sponsors in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The latter possibility was the gist of Putin’s remarks days after the Tomahawk strike on Al-Shayrat air base that Russia had intelligence indicating the terrorists were moving chemicals to key points east of Damascus and west of Aleppo in order to stage more chemical attacks to be blamed on Assad.
To the consternation of ABC News and its sources in the spook community, apparently many Americans who tweeted the #SyriaHoax hash tag earlier this month agree with Putin that the jihadists backed by U.S. allies if not directly by the CIA may have the means and motive to gas civilians in the territory they control. This state of doubt in the competency if not honesty of the U.S. intelligence community, of course, has produced much gnashing of teeth since then candidate and later president elect Donald Trump brought up the bogus conclusion that Saddam possessed working chemical weaponry immediately prior to the U.S. led-invasion of Iraq. We of course miss candidate Trump, who was more skeptical of the U.S. IC and did not make snap decisions to launch Tomahawks before, as with the 2013 East Ghouta attack, the preordained conclusion could be challenged.
In short, SecState Tillerson was likely told in his meeting with Lavrov and Putin that the Americans needed to tell the Saudis and Qataris to call off their jihadi dogs. He may also have been told, that chemical weapons use by U.S. Gulf Cooperation Council allied proxies against Russian forces in Syria or Syrian troops advised by Russians could be interpreted as an attack on the Russian Federation itself -- with grave consequences for not only TeamGCCAl-moderate-CIAeda, but for their sponsors. When it comes to asymmetrical retaliation for U.S. proxy warfare, a subject that Prof. Nichols and Google U grad Eliot Higgins demonstrate little interest in, the number of Yemeni rockets raining down on Saudi soil and Saudis dying in helicopters shot down by the Houthis noticeably increased prior to Mattis visit to the Kingdom this week. Mattis visit to the Kingdom suggests that someone in the Trump Administration has put two and two together, and realized that proxy wars can go both ways and Saudis can keep dying at the Houthis hands so long as their proxies attack Syria.
The question of whether Turkish opposition politicians allegations of a covert joint Saudi-Turk chemical warfare program to manufacture weapons that would be used to frame Assad and justify further U.S. military action against him is not going away -- especially as more highly ranked Turks flee Erdogan’s new Sultanate for asylum abroad. Sadly, we expect the derp of expertise and the imputation as opposed to presentation of it whenever it suits the Narrative Prof. Nichols wishes to support will go on. The current trajectory of U.S. foreign policy based on increasingly implausible lies requires the conflation of government funded/globalist think tank shills like Higgins with trained analysts and the dismissal of credible expertise accumulated over decades like Postol’s -- at least whenever it's inconvenient for the Narrative.
On Thursday the Russia Analyst emailed the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which had announced that four separate labs independently confirmed the presence of sarin in Khan Sheikhoun victims whose bodies were sampled by the Turkish authorities. We asked if the OCPW had or would be conducting any surprise inspections of chemical plants in Turkey capable of using or processing precursor chemicals for sarin. Their public affairs spokes-person replied with a set of links to the OCPW website, none of which addressed the sponsors of the Syrian war’s means and motive to make their own sarin and use it to provide further pretexts for U.S. strikes against the Syrian government.
Please consult the following documents, which contain what the OPCW can say at the moment about this issue:
OPCW Public Affairs”
As with the previous supposed causus belli chemical attack which was blamed on the Assad government in 2013, there are legitimate questions regarding the chain of custody for samples obtained by the OCPW. German blogger b at Moon of Alabama explains the OCPW’s use of the phrase ‘sarin like substances’ rather than sarin leaves the organization with some whiggle room. It also avoids the question of whether the al-Qaeda allied jihadists who control Khan Sheikhoun would permit a truly international as opposed to solely Turkish team to collect a sufficient number of samples where the chemical attack took place:
“A ‘Sarin like substances’ could be a different chemical weapon than sarin - soman is possible. But many general insecticides belong to the same chemical class as sarin and soman. They are organophosphorus compounds. (Sarin was originally developed as insecticide). All of such compounds could be a source of the exposure found by by the OPCW. These chemicals tend to degrade within hours or days. A forensic analysis will not find the original substance but only decomposition products of some organophosporus compound. That is the reason why the OPCW result is not fixed on sarin but also mentions ‘sarin like substances’.”
“The question is now where those samples come from? And what is the chain of evidence that connects the samples to the incident in question. The OPCW has not send an investigation team to Khan Sheikhun. No samples were taken by its own inspectors. While Russia and Syria have asked for OPCW inspections on the ground, Tahrir al-Sham, the renamed al-Qaeda in Syria which controls the area, has not asked for inspectors. Without its agreement any investigation mission is simply too dangerous. None of the OPCW inspectors are interested in literally losing their heads to those terrorists.”
“Immediately after the incident bodies of dead and wounded were brought to Turkey where they were taken into hospital. Al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda aligned personal must have transported these. It is a three hour trip from Khan Sheikhun to the Turkish border. Unless we trust the words of al-Qaeda operatives we can not be sure that the corpses delivered were indeed from Khan Sheikhun.”
The U.S./UK high dudgeon and accusations from the UK representative to the United Nations that Russia’s veto of a resolution that implied the Syrian government’s guilt for Khan Sheikhoun constituted a cover up were likely intended to obfuscate the lack of any scientific analyses of samples with a verifiable chain of custody collected on site. British envoy Matthew Rycroft’s remarks this week in New York also ignored that both Moscow and its Iranian allies have called for an impartial international investigation on site. Ironically, a British citizen doctor prominently featured in videos from Khan Sheikhoun, Shajul Islam, was charged in the UK with terror offenses for allegedly kidnapping a Briton and a Dutchman in Syria.
If Dr. Ted Postol were the only expert challenging the Khan Sheikhoun story, that would be one thing -- but he isn’t. More individuals with knowledge of how sarin neurotoxins work are coming forward to declare the videos and images don’t quite match the frame, suggesting that other chemicals may’ve been used or sarin may not have been used at all in the (staged false flag?) attack. As MoA reports:
“The neuroscientist and neuro-pharmacologist Denis O'Brien, a Ph.D. with a research and teaching career in that field, analyzed the symtoms of the casualties that were depicted in the various videos coming out of Khan Sheikhun. His diagnostics and chemical-biological explanations are humorously titled Top Ten Ways to Tell When You're Being Spoofed by a False-Flag Sarin Attack.”
“O'Brian notes the total absence of feces, urine, vomit and cyanosis (turning blue) in the videos. Sarin exposure causes, according to the CDC database "Nausea, vomiting (emesis), diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramping." Sarin effected patients would spontaneously shit, peed and vomited all over. But the casualties in the videos, even the "dead" ones, have clean undies. The "clinic" in the videos has clean floors. The patients show red skin color, not oxygen deprived blue. The patients in the videos were not effected by sarin.”
“Medical personal and rescue workers in the videos (example) and pictures also show none of the typical sarin symptoms. Sarin degrades relatively fast. Half of the potency will be gone within five hours after release (depending on environmental factors). But these rescue workers and medical personal were immediately involved with the casualties. They do not wear any reasonable protection. They would have been dead or at least effected if sarin would have been involved in any relevant concentration.”
“The Turkish doctors and chemical weapon specialists who received the first patients diagnosed chlorine exposure, not sarin. The first Turkish reports to the UN speak of chlorine, not sarin. It is only the Turkish Health Minister who mentions sarin - in parentheses, but then lists a symptom of severe chlorine exposure as one of sarin. Neither the casualties nor the unprotected medical personal involved in the incident show any effect of sarin exposure.”
“Fifteen days after the incident the OPCW say that samples it was given(!) "indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance".’
“Turkey has been the supply and support lifeline for Ahrar al Sham as well as for al-Qaeda in Syria. The samples given to the OPCW were taken by Turkish personal in Turkey. The current head of the OPCW is a Turkish citizen. It is in the interest of Turkey and its terrorist clients in Syria to blame the Syrian government for chemical weapon use.”
As for Tom Nichols and the British poster boy for his Death of Expertise thesis, those confident in their conclusions need not fear vigorous debate with a fellow expert who has the opportunity for a rebuttal. The fact is, Eliot Higgins says anyone can do what he does -- but when others claim to present their own open source or better yet on the ground has never participated in a program where the competency of his analyses can be challenged. The fact is, Tom Nichols undermines his own argument that decades of expertise is worthy of respect when it suits the agenda to discredit a fellow professor who presents huge problems with Washington’s Syria Narrative -- speaks volumes as to their trustworthiness.
Executive summary from the Turcopolier blog (with the link to Ted Postol's 13 page report below)
The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur:
Analysis of the Times and Locations of Critical Events in the Alleged Nerve Agent Attack
at 7 AM on April 4, 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria
Summary of Findings
This analysis contains a detailed description of the times and locations of critical events in the alleged nerve agent attack of April 4, 2017 in Khan Shaykhun, Syria – assuming that the White House Intelligence Report (WHR) issued on April 11, 2017 correctly identified the alleged sarin release site.
Analysis using weather data from the time of the attack shows that a small hamlet about 300 m to the east southeast of the crater could be the only location affected by the alleged nerve agent release. Video data of suffocating and dead victims lying on the ground shows a different location from the predicted sarin dispersal site if it had been correctly identified by the White House.
The conclusion is that the nerve agent attack described in the White House Intelligence Report did not occur as claimed. There may well have been mass casualties from some kind of poisoning event, but that event was not the one described by the WHR.
The findings of this expanded analysis can serve two important purposes:
- It shows exactly what needs to be determined in an international investigation of this alleged atrocity.
In particular, if an international investigation can determine where casualties from the nerve agent attack lived, it will confirm that the findings reported by the White House Report are incompatible with its own cited data.
- It also establishes that the White House Report did not utilize simple and widely agreed upon intelligence analysis procedures to determine its conclusions.
This raises troubling questions about how the US political and military leadership determined that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged attack. It is particularly of concern that the White House Report presented itself as a report with “high confidence” findings and that numerous high-level officials in the US government have confirmed their belief that the report was correct and executed to a standard of high confidence.
Theodore A. Postol
Professor Emeritus of Science,
Technology, and National Security Policy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Follow this link to read the full thirteen page report (The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur).