anderson syria
© Tim Anderson
A 'regime of silence' was introduced this weekend in the Syrian province of Latakia and the city of Damascus. This comes after 5 years of constant warfare, 7 months of Russian military assistance, and 2 months of a relatively successful cessation of hostilities. The Syrian Army has liberated hundreds of towns and villages in the past several months, and dozens have agreed to the ceasefire. The historic city of Palmyra has been liberated. But Turkey and Saudi Arabia continue to support terrorism in the country and block a political settlement. The so-called moderate opposition and their U.S. backers blame Syria and Russia for ceasefire violations. Syria and Russia blame Jabhat al-Nusra and Jaish al-Islam. An MSF hospital was shelled in Aleppo, and the blame-game continues.

anderson dirty war
Joining us for this episode of Behind the Headlines is Professor Tim Anderson, author of The Dirty War on Syria: Washington, Regime Change and Resistance, to clarify what's really going on and to cut through the propaganda of recent events. Dr. Anderson was recently in Syria to observe the parliamentary elections. In today's show, he discussed his visit, his research, and his book on the Syrian war.

Following the interview, Joe and Niall joined us to talk about the U.S. State Department insanity and current events, and Brent gave his weekly Police State Round-up. Behind the Headlines is brought to you by the SOTT Radio Network and SOTT, your one-stop source for independent, unbiased, alternative news and commentary on world events.

Live on Sundays at 12 pm Eastern.

Running Time: 01:57:13

Download: OGG, MP3


Listen live, chat, and call in to future shows on the SOTT Radio Network!


Here's the transcript of the show:

Harrison: Hi everyone. Welcome back to Behind the Headlines. Today we are going to be interviewing Dr. Tim Anderson. In the studio first of all, today we have SOTT editors Corey Schink.

Corey: Hello everybody.

Harrison: Elan Martin.

Elan: Hi everyone.

Harrison: And I'm your host for today, Harrison Koehli. So Tim Anderson is a senior lecturer in political economy at the University of Sydney, Australia. He researches and writes on development rights and self-determination in Latin America, the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. He has published many dozens of chapters and articles in a range of academic books and journals and his latest book is The Dirty War on Syria-Washington Regime Change and Resistance, published by Global Research and that just came out early this year, 2016. So Tim, thanks for joining us today.

Tim: Thanks Harrison. My pleasure.

Harrison: First I'll just say a little bit more about what I know about you. I first heard about you from Global Research so you've published several articles on Global Research and they've published your new book. I also found you on Facebook through some mutual friends and found out that you're the guy that creates all those great images of anti-propaganda about what's really going on in Syria. So when did you first write for Global Research? What drew you to start writing about the war in Syria?

Tim: You know there's a huge disinformation campaign about Syria and that extends to the exclusion of dissident voices, even in the media but also in academia and I'm basically a writer so I was writing things and looking for places to publish them and Global Research is one of the few in the English-speaking world that had quite a consistent, strong line on what the war was all about in Syria. So that led me to Global Research. As for the infographics you mentioned, I started doing those because, again as a writer, it's rather frustrating. You can spend a lot of time preparing a research article and maybe a few hundred people share it or something on social media, but if you do a cartoon or a graphic, then a few thousand people will share it so I started to think about including some information, not necessarily in a cartoon, but a graphic that attracted peoples' attention with some photographs and songs.

So it's just another level of communication. Peoples' attention spans are so short these days. I still value reading and writing but I mix them up.

Harrison: Well I think they're great. I love them and if any of our listeners want to check them out they're regularly posted on Global Research. You can also check out Tim's Facebook page.

Now Tim you just recently got back from Syria, right? You made a trip there? Can you tell us a bit about why you were there?

Tim: Yeah, I went there in the middle of April for almost two weeks. It was my third trip to Syria but this one was all during the crisis. This one was really to present my book in Syria. I wanted to present it and take some hard copies there to Syria and also to develop my lines of research, my relationship with Syrian organizations in research and also in development. So it was really about the book and building those sorts of relationships. There was a lot of interest. I now have a contract for the Arabic version of the book which should be out next month.

Harrison: Great!

Tim: So that was mainly what the trip was about.

Harrison: And the elections took place, right? The parliamentary elections, while you were there?

Tim: Yeah, by coincidence I just ended up going at the same time that the parliamentary elections were going on and that was interesting to observe, that and of course there was a fair amount of foreign media and local media that was talking to international people about how they saw the elections.

Harrison: Well that must have been interesting because I know in the west, especially North America, like you said, there's a huge disinformation campaign in the media and from governments about what's really going on in Syria or what's not going on in Syria. One of the things that we really don't see a lot about is even the idea of elections in Syria. We don't hear about them a lot. They don't get very much news coverage at all. All that we have in the west is the idea that Assad is a brutal dictator who purposefully targets his own civilians and murders children.
Can you tell us a bit about the elections? What do they show about the real state of Syrian democracy?

Tim: Well of course the western powers that are trying to overthrow the Syrian government don't have any interest in Syrian democracy. That's why they want to try and disqualify it or ignore it completely. You could have said the same about the western coverage of Cuba in the last couple of decades too, the same sorts of things. That is, people aren't really allowed to talk about these sorts of things.

The parliamentary elections in Syria last month were, in the context of a presidential system, interestingly the system is not too different from that of the US, that is to say it's a presidential system with a congress which are the lawmakers basically. But in the same sort of way, there's less enthusiasm for the parliamentary elections than the presidential. So the participation rate is lower. But the participation in both of them is much higher than in the US. So for example, when President Bashar Al-Assad was re-elected two years ago, the participation rate was 73%. And I don't think in living memory there's been a participation rate that high in the US.

So similarly at a lower scale with the congress elections, there have been two parliamentary or congress elections during the conflict; 2012 and last month and in 2012 the participation rate was down to 51%. Remember the armed groups there are threatening death and reprisal against anyone who participates in these sorts of elections so they in a sense, the armed groups, the Al-Qaeda groups have quite a parallel approach to the elections to the US. They have no interest in elections or any sort of democracy. They want a religious state and in a sense the US policy is mirroring the same sort of thing. There's no interest in it. They'll just say they don't exist more or less.

So the participation rate was a bit higher this time and the range of candidates was higher. A lot of people were commenting on the fact that there were banners all through Damascus and countryside Syria and a huge amount of election propaganda there for all sorts of candidates, not just parties, but individuals as well. People noticed there was more young people, more women, for example. But there was a wider variety of candidates and the participation was up around 50-70% this time. So again, much higher than congress or congressional elections in the US.
So there was a lot of interest but I don't think you could say that the enthusiasm was quite as strong as for the presidential elections two years ago.

Elan: We understand that Assad had actually won those elections with a percentage of 88.7% of those voting which, if most people in the US had knowledge of, the whole idea that this is a guy who supposedly subjugates his people and kills his people, how do you win an election by such a large percentage if you're so popular? It's impossible!

Tim: Yeah, that's true. Of course there's two things going on here. The presidential elections prior to the one two years ago were effectively plebiscites because there was a privileged status of the Baath party and once the Baath party decided on its candidate I suppose, once the republican party's decided on its candidate or something, that was it. You didn't have any other choices. So there was a huge institutional advantage to the incumbent president in 2014 but at the same time there was a communist and a businessman candidates that got through the nomination process. They had to have, by the way, about 30 members of parliament supporting them so they needed some substantial support. It wasn't that there was no support for opposition candidates but they had a common platform there, that is to say against the foreign-funded terrorist groups and basically the differences were over economic policy.

So that enthusiasm was genuinely there but it's fair to say also that there is a fairly apparent personality cult around President Assad but he is also genuinely popular. There's all those things altogether, really. He still represents the face of reform of the system in Syria. It's fair to say that the system and the Baath party were all significantly less popular than President Bashar, for example, who heads a coalition government. There's been ministers in his government from other parties apart from the Baath party at least since 2012 for example.

But his popularity is extremely high. It's gotten stronger during the crisis. If you look at the history of polls and estimates going back for a decade you can see that there was some uncertainty amongst Syrians about him, mainly because they thought he wasn't strong enough, contrary to the western attempt to try and make him the new Hitler, really he is what he appears, a mild mannered dental surgeon with a lot of agonizing about the cultural impact, the impact on children, of this war and so on. I think the war has proven him more decisive than many thought and there's some pretty clear evidence that his popularity has strengthened during the crisis.

Corey: You write back in 2011 the Syrian people nicknamed him Mr. Soft Heart because they didn't think that he was being as strong-willed as he should have been to crush this uprising that occurred, that the west had labeled as democratic protests but in reality was an armed uprising from major militant groups. Could you talk a little bit about the militant groups and their relation to the Syrian state?

Tim: Yes, that's a good question. It goes to another issue that people are probably confused by because the western governments and the western media talk about the opposition as effectively the spokespeople for the armed groups and that means effectively the Al-Qaeda groups because they dominate all of the armed groups. If you go back 10 or 11 years there was a document called the Damascus Declaration by all of the opposition groups - which included the Muslim Brotherhood which is the major Salafist or jihadi group in Syria, but also the others - and that document specifically rejected armed attacks on the state or the army, specifically rejected it. So there is a much broader Syrian opposition but what happened in 2011 was that there also were democratic protests but also a program and protests in 2011.

But when the armed insurrection led by the Al-Qaeda groups and the Muslim Brotherhood began in March 2011 in Deraa and spread up into Homs, a lot of those opposition people, the overwhelming majority of them, reverted back to supporting at least the state, if not the government, some of them the government and most of them the state. So since that time it's only really the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafist groups, the ones that align themselves with the Al-Qaeda groups, that have been in this armed uprising. So they've never represented the spectrum of a civil or political opposition in Syria but because of the way the western media talks about it, it seems that they do.

Harrison: I find it infuriating that pretty much everything that you hear about Syria is just completely wrong. It's the total opposite of what's going on because first of all, everything that they say about Assad is a total lie. And then everything they say about the so-called opposition or moderate rebels is a total lie. It's like you say, any kind of real opposition that existed, within the first few months of the so-called protests or uprising in 2011, they very vehemently opposed the violent militant factions and the jihadi groups and showed support for the state and the army and Assad.
So for this whole time, going on five years, there has been no democratic protest movement. It's been groups of armed jihadi militants and these are the guys that the US continues to call moderate rebels and continues to support and these are the guys currently in Aleppo who are "intermingled" with Al-Nusra Front. That just got to me too. I watched a clip of John Kirby at the state department giving a press conference. I think it might have been yesterday or the day before and they were talking about the current situation in Aleppo and he was talking about how unfortunate it was that their guys were intermingled with Al-Nusra and that they've explained to them the situation, about the dangers of being intermingled with Al-Nusra but they haven't left. They haven't "unmingled" themselves with Al-Nusra Front. It's just maddening!

Tim: Well it's a double game, as you pointed out. Words mean the reverse of what they are. Al-Nusra was specifically created as a foreign support front for the Syrian Salafists in 2011. The name means The Front in Support. The long name means The Front in Support of the Islamic People of Syria and actually the Levant. So there's a problem. They've always been intermingled there and that was the idea. If you go back to the US intelligence report which was leaked out about two years ago, but it was from 2012, it said quite specifically - so they're not fooling themselves in the internal documents - that the creation of a caliphate in eastern Syria is exactly what they US and its allies wanted so as to undermine the Syrian regime.

So the idea of an Islamic state was there well before ISIS came across the border from Iraq into Syria.

Harrison: In that same DIA document from 2012 they said that the three main groups there were the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was ISIS. So they knew...

Tim: From the beginning.

Harrison: ...from the beginning.

Tim: Which means that it wasn't co-opted or wasn't taken over by Islamists. That is how it began basically and the US knows it. The US has always known that's been the case.

Elan: What's so interesting is you have all of these countries, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, which have instilled their Wahhabist thinking on ISL and ISIS and then you have the Muslim Brotherhood that's been there for decades and they have US direct support. It seems like every one of these countries that wants a piece of Syria also has its own proxy force or face that's been introduced into the situation.

Tim: That's right. And there's been a bit of competition between them from time to time. At one stage Qatar was the major group that supported the Muslim Brotherhood. The Saudis didn't really trust them because remember with these sorts of groups, if they get too big they can become Frankenstein's monsters so that's why there remains quite a large number of groups there. There's only really four big groups these days but a large number of smaller groups, because the main sponsors, as you pointed out - Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia - they don't really want these groups to get together because there could be some serious blow-back and semi-independent actions. There was already a coup attempt in the United Arab Emirates for example, so a lot of those Gulf monarchies have had their own militias, as you said. Kuwait for example had their own little militia. They all had their pet militia. But there is some significant paranoia amongst the Gulf states, the Gulf monarchies that this may blow back and affect them too.

Corey: Well just looking back over the decades, like you brought up Elan, as said the Muslim Brotherhood have been involved in Syria and trying to create uprising and impose their version of the Wahhabi Sharia law, so I was just wondering Tim if you could talk about how they have shaped the Syrian government to become a little bit more authoritarian and that has led to the rise of these opposition groups? Can you just talk about the history of the Syrian government with these Wahhabi groups?

Tim: Okay. There are two factors involved with the shaping of the Syrian state and some of the genuine concerns expressed by Syrian opposition groups in the past, not just the Muslim Brotherhood. One was the war with Israel of course. The state of emergency which lasted into the current crisis really came out of the last major war with Israel in 1973, so 43 years ago now. That state of emergency was because there had always been apprehensions that the state of Israel was a constant threat to Syria. At the same time the internal threat, which as you pointed out had been supported by the US and Saudis in the past, the Muslim Brotherhood, had carried out in particular a very nasty, bloody sectarian insurrection in the city of Homa but also in Aleppo back in the early '80s. And it was crushed definitively by Hafez al-Assad, the father of the current president.
Syrians are aware of that history 30 years earlier and when they saw this insurrection they immediately identified this as another Muslim Brotherhood operation, but this time more internationalized and with strong support. So those two processes, the existence of this sectarian state involved in expansion - Israel - and threatening and occupying Syrian land as well as Palestinian land, and the internal factor of the Muslim Brotherhood trying to undermine or be a competitor with Arab nationalism, basically. Remember Arab nationalism became very powerful in the '50s, very popular when President Nasser in Egypt defeated the British and the French over the Suez Canal and that led to a huge fervor of Arab nationalism across the region. At that time the British handed over to President Eisenhower and the US the relationship with the king of Saudi Arabia, the only country named after a family.

But the reason for that was to try and have an ally that would work on the divisions within the Arab world and weaken any potential Nassers in the Arab world. And they've done that, you have to say very effectively. Eisenhower back in the '50s said "We want to build up the Saudi king as a rival figure to Nasser, a political leader, maybe even a religious leader". So the idea of Wahhabism which the British and the US knew everything about, they were horrified by the brutality of Wahhabist Saudi Arabians chopping off hands and the way they treat women and all that sort of thing, but they were really appreciative, as Churchill said, of the unfailing loyalty - I think Churchill said - of the Saudis towards the western powers.
So there's those two factors, the two very strong sectarian factors that the big powers have used in the Middle East. One is Israel and the other is Saudi Arabia which, not coincidentally, are now forging a much closer partnership.

Corey: I'd just like to reiterate to the listeners out there that this whole relationship and the history of Syria in the region and to the many countries that seem to have their knives at its throat, is totally complex, but your book The Syrian Dirty War is just an excellent read and it's extremely entertaining and well documented and I definitely encourage everyone to get a copy and to read through it because it blow-by-blow details everything that's been happening to Syria leading up to this current conflict.

Elan: I completely agree Corey. The clarity of the language, Tim, it's utterly readable and digestible and adds a lot of facts to the story that I think gets lost even in the alternative news sphere. There was one passage from your book which I was reading that was quite interesting. You write:
Despite their anti-Syrian bias some western sources exposed other false flag massacres.I should just add, in a very minimal way.

For example, the August 2012 massacre of 245 people in Dariaa initially badged as a massacre by Assad's army was exposed by Robert Fisk as a slaughter by the FSA of kidnapped civilian and off-duty soldier hostages after a failed prisoner swap. Similarly, the December 10, 2012 massacre of over 100 villagers in Agrab was at first blamed on the Syrian government. However British journalist Alex Thompson later reported the FSA had held 500 Alawi villagers for nine days, murdering many of them as the army closed in and the gang fled.
The August 2013 chemical weapons incident in east Ghouta was widely blamed on the Assad government, yet all independent evidence exposes as yet another false flag.

What I didn't know until reading that was that that was actually the Free Syrian Army and the so-called moderates, and not in fact ISIS or Al-Nusra Front or any of the other groups.

Tim: That's right. It was a combination of those three group that are really fighting in Aleppo today. Well ISIS is in Aleppo as well, but that coalition which Turkey put together between Jabhat al-Nusra - which is the banned Al-Qaeda group - and Jaish al-Islam, the army of Islam and Ahrar ash-Sham. So those three groups have been consolidated into a coalition in the north of Syria but they were the ones also in the northeast countryside Damascus that manufactured that chemical weapons incident back a few years ago.

Harrison: I read a recent interview with Seymour Hersh and he said that he's heard from several of his sources that when Russia and the US created the deal for Syria to destroy its chemical weapons store, apparently the US had sent a ship over there with some forensic testing capabilities. So they got rid of all the chemical weapons and they actually tested the chemical weapons that were used and found that they were no match at all for the weapons that were used in I believe the east Ghouta attack. They've been keeping that silent ever since. They've been continuing to use the talking point that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in east Ghouta when their own forensic experts tested the gases, the weapons, and found that they did not match at all.

Tim: The evidence is overwhelming on that, but as you say, including very independent evidence. Seymour Hersh is one but also those MIT scientists who looked at the telemetry evidence of the rockets and so on and found it was impossible for the Syrian army to have fired them. All of that stuff was comprehensive, but as you say, the western media keeps repeating the same story, regardless of the evidence basically.

Corey: So in Syria obviously we've had the Russian intervention and now the US is talking about putting boots on the ground, but they're not putting boots on the ground. They can't get their story straight. But they are sending troops in. So I was just wondering what you think the state of affairs are right now, what it looks like in the near-term future. It sounds like the Syrian army is beginning a major offensive in Aleppo and just what do you see for the future of Syria at this point?

Tim: Yes, well it's true that the Syrian army and the Syrian alliance which includes now Russian air power, Iranian support and a large number of militia from across the region, in particular Hezbollah from Lebanon, that alliance is prevailing generally and the retaking Palmyra in March was a significant sign of that. The problem is there are still very powerful supporters of the armed groups in Syria - Turkey and Saudi Arabia in particular, and the US of course. The fact that there's political will in the US to keep pushing for regime change, an illegal war of aggression effectively, is what aggravates this crisis.

So in the short-to-medium term effectively the US and its allies are losing in the effort to either Balkanize or overthrow the government of Syria, but they're causing enormous damage and there are still great dangers because none of those states, neither the US nor Turkey nor Saudi Arabia like the idea that they are losing. At the same time as they are losing they are catalyzing a type of enhanced axis of resistance which used to refer to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah but now includes Iraq and of course that has important implications for US policy in the entire region doesn't it? All of that death and destruction to try and subjugate Iraq and make it a close ally of the US is starting to vanish. A recent survey done showed that amongst Iraqi youth there was something like 93% saw the US as the enemy.

So effectively the alienation of the Iraqi government and Iraqi youth from the US is extremely powerful. Russia has its anti-ISIS intelligence unit in Bagdad now. So although there's still a way to go in terms of Iraq disentangling itself from the last 13 years of history with the US, that's definitely in play and that means this axis across Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah which is feared by Israel because they believe, correctly, that that axis is providing weapons to the Palestinian resistance, that whole thing is reshaping the region. As I said, unfortunately in the short term it's a very dangerous situation and the fact that the US has apparently sent a small number - 150 or so - of soldiers into northern parts of Syria where they're trying to work with the separatist Kurdish forces to try and dismember Syria a little bit there is dangerous too because if there's some overt links between ISIS and the other armed groups there and US soldiers start getting involved or killed, that's a terrible provocation which could lead to escalation.
So there are a lot of real dangers of escalation and also the simple awful fact of the constant terrorism. Even when an enemy loses a war they can keep killing people and that's some of the real dangers in this conflict.

Elan: Tim, there were recent reports that Turkey may be starting a new incursion into Syria and considering that, at least by appearances, Obama didn't meet with Erdogan when he visited in Washington a few weeks ago, they sort of distanced themselves from the shoot down of the Russian plane by Turkey's air forces, there seems to have been a cooling off, and yet it would appear that Turkey is chomping at the bit and prepared to jump into the fray again. How do you see that playing out, if at all?

Tim: It's true that the US or the Obama administration let's say, has been trying to distance itself from the Saudis and the government of Erdogan for at least two years and that has to account to a fair degree for the admissions made by Vice President Bidan and the head of the army, General Martin Dempsey back in 2014 that their allies were indeed financing ISIS. Now that seemed an extraordinary admission at the time and maybe some people have forgotten about it but to me it was really a strategic move to try and blind their allies, particularly the Saudis and also Turkey and I think Biden might have apologized to Erdogan after that. But they have made that sort of admission in pursuit of this traditional US policy of plausible deniability, that you'll blame someone else and say that the Saudis are off on their own tangent.

Of course the Saudis can't provide millions of dollars of weapons to terrorist groups without the US specifically approving it. We know that. There's an office in Washington that specifically approves or doesn't approve the re-export of US weapons and we know that ISIS is overwhelmingly run by US weapons these days. So there's that tension in the relationship. In terms of Turkey, there's a couple of things there. One is that they have already their own proxy armies, the Turkmen armies with Turkish flag or a variation of the Turkish flag in with that coalition of that army of conquest Jaish al-Fatah fighting the Syrian army at the moment around Aleppo. They've had regular Turkish army embedded with those militia also.

But there's also a report recently that there was a Turkish plan to go in and excise a type of buffer area or boundary area, probably giving it some sort of humanitarian name or something like that, but really effectively to keep providing the safe haven to the groups that they sponsor in northern Syria. Turkey has always relied on the idea that they could claim the support of NATO countries and to a fair degree they've got it, if there was any provocation on the border whether from Syria or from Russia. I think the Europeans are more wary of that now that Russia's involved but that's always a danger, that Erdogan thinks that he has perhaps the force of NATO behind him if there's some direct confrontation on the border.

Harrison: Tim, I want to ask you about a group, the White Helmets. We've been talking about a lot of the media disinformation and these rebel groups. Who are the White Helmets? They call themselves some kind of humanitarian group. I saw them in the news recently. I was wondering if you could give some background and what they do.

Tim: Sure. They were set up about two-and-a-half years ago I think, mainly a Wall Street construction, so they're a foundation like Soros' Open Society Foundation that have funded a range of groups really; the Syria campaign, some subsets of Avaaz and of other groups. It was linked to Avaaz, for example. Soros has been involved in some of this but we've found recently that apparently US Aid has also been funding the White Helmets. The White House spokesperson a few days ago said that US Aid had given them $23 million.

They're headed by a British ex-soldier and they've effectively created a type of alliance between those foreign media campaigns, which are largely run by Wall Street. The Saudis contracted out their Twitter account to one of these US PR companies and the so-called Syrian opposition, the one that's based in Saudi Arabia, has been doing the same sort of thing. The White Helmet PR campaign is being run directly from Wall Street. On the ground effectively what's emerged in the last year is that there's a lot of video, partly through their own making, of them with Jabhat al-Nusra in particular, with guns, celebrating Jabhat al-Nusra victories, picking up bodies after executions. There's a very good little documentary by an Australian called Steve Ezzedine about the White Helmets and Vanessa Beeley in the Americas has been writing about this for almost a year now too.

So effectively they're a front group. They embed themselves with Jabhat al-Nusra. They set up clinics and emergency medical help, but effectively it's those Al-Quaeda groups themselves putting on the jackets and putting on the helmets and then filming themselves and claiming that they're under attack by the Syrians or the Russians basically. So it's quite a clever propaganda stunt by the backers, which I had only found out recently that the US government through US Aid was directly funding them as well as the foundations like the Open Society Foundation. They're basically a western creation and they've been very important in keeping this disinformation campaign going, the current one for example in Aleppo. All that the Syrians and Russians are doing is deliberately destroying hospitals. They're deliberately attacking civilians. They're deliberately destroying hospitals. This has been going on for five years, this sort of disinformation, but in the context of Aleppo, the White Helmets played the most important role in that campaign now.

But also it should be said that the Doctors Without Borders, the French-based group with links to French intelligence has been funding a lot of clinics for those same groups, without saying they're volunteers. Usually MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) say they're international volunteers. They haven't been doing that because the situation's so dangerous but what is meant is they've ended up effectively funding Jabhat al-Nusra field hospitals throughout Syria and then when they get attacked then there's another line to the disinformation campaign. "Look at how the Syrian forces are deliberately bombing hospitals". Well they're deliberately bombing the terrorist groups.

For the populations in Damascus and Aleppo the situation by the way is quite different now because the ceasefire has sort of worked in Damascus whereas there's a big offensive and counter-offensive in Aleppo at the moment. But where the attacks are specifically on the groups that are mortaring civilians, the civilians are demanding that the army intervene and the western media is saying "Oh, the army is attacking civilians". So it's once again diametrically opposed to what's going on. But these fake NGOs have been important in the disinformation campaigns.

Harrison: That's actually one of the things that I appreciate about your book so much. First of all it's so clearly written and you really just get into the propaganda and just expose it for exactly what it is. I like one of the things that you repeat several times in your book and that's just about the nature of the sources for whenever we hear about any kind of atrocities or things like that, to look at the source because many of the images that we see in the news, when you actually look into them, most of the time it turns out that they're either recycled images, they're not from where they say they're from or they're just completely unsubstantiated. So it's just an image by itself and that gets attached to a narrative, but without any real investigation and without any real proof backing it up.

I remember a few months ago I found a new YouTube channel and it was by this Syrian exile, a young guy. I think he spent the first few years of his life in Syria and then his father was arrested and they left the country after that and he came back and he said he started this little media group. So he was going around Aleppo, talking to what he said were just ordinary citizens of Aleppo and they were all saying in this one video "Oh there's no al-Nusra in Aleppo. There's only the Free Syrian Army. We're the Free Syrian Army."

Now the thing about this video, because it was supposed to be really moving and to show that there was only these moderate groups in Aleppo, but the thing was, if you just looked at the video carefully, all these guys were being interviewed separately on empty streets and they're all military-aged men.

Tim: With beards and no moustaches in a lot of cases.

Harrison: Yeah. So you've got to ask yourself who's saying this? Where's it coming from? Because oftentimes, like you said Tim, it's actually al-Nusra who's dressing up as civilians and saying this is what's going on. Well it's completely backwards! That is not what's happening on the ground!

Tim: Actually since you mention the Al-Qaeda dressing themselves up as civilians, that of course has been going on from the beginning and there were western journalists reporting it in 2011 too. There was one - and his name escapes me at the moment - but he was recording from the middle of 2011. Also that very well-known mother superior of a monastery in around Homs, Mother Agnes Mariam, was sick of the numbers game. Initially they were saying so many people killed, so many people killed and it was all the fault of the dictator Bashar al-Assad. She started demanding that we have names of these people because they had been recycling photos forever, including their own fighters as civilians.

So she began that push to say no, we want the names of the people. If you've got pictures of people here we want their names, who their families are. They're human beings. They're not numbers in a sports match.

Harrison: Well just to contrast what we see in the news and all these propaganda campaigns, these videos that get put out, like these stories from the one guy who calls himself the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, I know for your book and before your book, just in the research you did when you started looking into Syria, you have a lot of contacts within Syria with whom you talk about these sorts of things and like you said, you've made several trips to Syria. So I was wondering if you could just tell us a bit about the Syrians that you know tell you about life or what they think about the situation, or maybe what they would like to see or what they would like westerners to know about what's really going on?

Tim: You have to use Syrian sources. You have to use independent sources. I made the point in the book that in any conflict we need to look at as much independent evidence as we can. The problem is that the US has tried to set itself up as both a player and an arbiter of what's going on there. In normal terms of assessing evidence you don't allow people who are engaged in a conflict to assess a conflict. So we have to look at Syrian sources and other sources that are available and I point out in the book that I've used a lot of western sources, not because they're any better but because one, there's the language factor, what sort of information have people have got access to in the English speaking world. Another one is when there are admissions, for example, from senior US officials that their allies are funding ISIS, then that's worth more than what half a dozen Iraqi MPs who are saying it, even if they're eyewitnesses to the US backing ISIS in Iraq for example.

So if you talk to the Syrians, and once you start talking to Syrians, you find out there are a lot of Syrian voices there. They've been banned or disqualified or whatever, but there are independent sources in Syria and there are private media channels as well as official government ones. But if you're talking about the general situation in Syria now there's a great deal of hope for example, in Damascus, with effectively the ceasing of the constant mortaring of Damascus which had been going on for years. When I got there last month there was at least 40 days where no mortars had fallen in Damascus, or almost no mortars had fallen and that was a huge relief to the population. You could see the relief there.

The liberation of Palmyra, the fact that the Syrian Army with its allies took that enormously iconic, historic site in Palmyra from ISIS without any support at all from the US led coalition was enormously important in Syria. And at the same time you have to recognize that there are huge economic difficulties in Syria because of the war because of the sanctions. The Syrians often talk about the fact that this other war against them is these sanctions, that the Europeans and the US are now trying to strangle them economically. They admit it. We saw it before with Iraq. You remember hundreds of thousands of children are said to have died through the '90s from those sanctions against Iraq. They didn't have much impact on the Iraqi government but certainly hurt a lot of people; so the sanctions and the shortages, the war, the fact that the armed groups also attacked a lot of infrastructure and a lot of factories were stolen and directly shipped into Turkey for example. ISIS did the same in Palmyra. Pharmaceutical factories are destroyed.
So the end result is you've got a lot of very low salaries in Syria and very high prices, enormous shortages. Only because there's very strong social bonds in the country and the social infrastructure is very good, the roads and everything are very good, there's subsidized bread, there's a lot of social support there. But incomes are very, very low and prices are very high so economically they've faced a lot of challenges and the sanctions are an important plank in that. The sanctions and the terrorist groups function together in that sort of way.

So there are a lot of challenges and a lot of people debate. The internal political debate in Syria now is about those real economic challenges as well as the war, not just the war. But life goes on. Sometimes they say it's normal and you can't really say it's normal. They have got used to everyday life though where the whole country effectively is a war zone. They are winning. They know that they winning that war but it's at a terrible cost because every family has lost members in this war. There's something approaching 100,000 Syrian soldiers have died in this conflict so it's not at all one-sided, that sort of suffering.

The mortars that are now raining on Aleppo and killing civilians, the truth is distorted in the western media, but that's another level of suffering that the Syrians are really distressed about, but they're very determined to follow this through and expel the armed groups from all of the populated centres.

Elan: Tim, back in 2013 we had the US just on the verge of attacking Syria because of the alleged chemical weapons attacks on its own citizens. Russia very cleverly took something that Kerry said and challenged the US to allow Syria to give up its chemical weapons and have them shipped off to Sweden or wherever it was. Then we have this remarkable speech by Putin in 2015 at the UN calling the US out on all of its dirty tricks and shortly after going after ISIS in a really effective way, and all of these other groups that are in Syria. And yet there is still this relentless push on the part of the US it seems. It's as though there's this immovable object and unstoppable force at work between the forces of the US and Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Qatar and Israel and now Russia added to Iran, Hezbollah and the forces in Iraq and Syria and it just doesn't seem as though there's going to be any kind of satisfactory resolution to this unless something much bigger happens. That's just my impression. But getting back to what Corey was saying a little earlier, just looking at the situation now, do you anticipate, or can you see any developments that can be predictive or suggest with high probability what may be likely to occur there?

Tim: Well the first thing is I think that the diplomatic process is really important, but it's important in terms of winding back the war or winding back the political will of the players behind the armed groups - the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel. Maybe Israel will never accept it because they're going to end up in a worse position if Syria emerges more strongly. And of course one thing to recognize is even though there's approaching 100,000 casualties in the Syrian army, that's been renewed. The public support for the army is extremely strong, extremely strong. And in terms of experience, that Syrian army has become probably the strongest army in the entire region, particularly when you factor in the Russian air support and the Iranian support and Hezbollah support.

So really the military victories on the ground are underwriting the political control of Syria's future. There's no real possibility at all, for example I believe, that either the US nor anyone else will have a say in shaping a so-called transitional government in Syria. That's simply not going to happen because we know what they want. They want to overthrow the government and have some divided, Balkanized state or some weak government there. That didn't even work in Iraq. So it's going to work even less in Syria basically. And they're losing their grip on Iraq. So politically speaking I suppose their expectation amongst those that support the terrorist groups, that they will have some say in some political transition.
The other side to that is - and this goes to the point you made about the US's failed intervention in late 2013 because of that clever initiative by President Putin - the Obama administration really wanted a way down out of the tree. They got themselves up into a tree. They talked about this redline thing. There was a fake incident. They knew it was a fake incident. It was run by their proxy armies, the chemical one, in east Ghouta. But their credibility as a player in the region was at stake and so they were about to launch a missile attack and then that was diffused by the Russian initiative. It showed another thing, that the Obama administration didn't have a stomach for direct intervention in Syria at that stage, even that long ago. They've got it even less so now and I think the contenders for the presidency in the US, I don't think any of them, for all of their bluster, have really got the stomach for a new failed intervention, particularly with the Russians involved.

That's always been the fear of the US in their dealings with Syria, that the Soviet Union before, Russia now, would create a lot of dangers for them. But they certainly want a way down out of the tree. Washington doesn't like to lose. It's not a good loser. The resolution of the Vietnam War, you might remember, took really seven years from when they knew they were losing to when they got out. Hopefully it won't take that long in Syria. But there's that danger. They're looking for a way out and that's I think, partly answered by the quite clever diplomacy of Putin. Remember that President Putin has never really confronted in ideological terms the US role in Syria. They've really said "Let's fight ISIS together". And even though everyone knows they're doing different things there, they've really adopted the US language, the predictive intervention language or whatever that the US has been running on Syria for the last few years.

So there's not going to be a political resolution in Geneva, but I have to say after being in Syria a few weeks ago, that the ceasefire definitely had some beneficial impacts. One was with the fact that Syria and Russia, Iran and Hezbollah were prevailing. A lot of the smaller groups were surrendering and taking advantage of amnesties, for example. So in other words, the Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda-linked groups were being more and more defined and isolated in a way. Also the fact that the mortars stopped in Damascus. If they didn't stop in Aleppo at least they stopped in Damascus. That's hugely important. Any group of people want a respite from mortars. They don't want mortars falling on their heads every day as their children go to school. And that's what these so-called moderate rebels were doing, sending these crude gas canister homemade mortar bombs called hell cannons, into the cities and god knows whose head they land on but they do land on peoples' heads.

So where is the way that the US can find a retreat with some sort of dignity? Russia is now even praising them as helping in the war against ISIS when everyone knows that that's not the case. So that diplomatic process to try and give the US a way out, to try and find some sort of face-saving efforts while building some of these local ceasefires that give ordinary people a respite from this violence, that's not going to happen in Aleppo because really that's the centre of the big confrontation now. ISIS is sending people from Iraq across to Aleppo. The Jabhat al-Nusra and the others have launched a counter-offensive. The Syrian army is just beginning a big offensive there. There's going to be a huge battle there to reclaim that city.

But the political will of the people that support these terrorist groups, the governments that support these terrorist groups has to be managed or massaged in some sort of way that doesn't look like a massive defeat for them. I guess that's the main hope in having them back off their support there. Also it's still possible. Whoever wins the presidential race in the US is going to want to distance themselves from failed policies of the Obama administration in Libya and Syria.

Elan: I just want to add that your appraisal of the situation with regards to the political will of the people and the ceasefire is encouraging. I share your hope that it's going to help stabilize Syria in the long run although given all of the interventions of various kinds by the US and the west over the past few years, I'm also kind of - what's the word? - cautious too, and a little nervous.

Tim: Well the stakes are very high, aren't they? The stakes are very high because they're losing control of Iraq as well as they're losing Syria. So the role of the US in the whole region is really at stake with the fact that the Syrian resistance has forced them into a defeat. I'm certain that Washington wants to avoid the image of a humiliating defeat but privately they must admit that their whole project is really going off the rails at the moment. How they're going to manage that is a tricky question.

Harrison: Well Tim, one final question; is the reason that the US is so stubborn in pursuing the policy that they've been pursuing in Syria for years, that they just don't want to admit a mistake or is there another reason why Syria seems so important to them, why they are not backing down from their policy?

Tim: Yes, well I try and set this up very early in the book in the chapter about Washington and the new Middle East, that the project was there at least from the early days of the Bush administration to reshape the entire region as a beacon of freedom and all the rest of it. But what it meant was that they would subjugate all the governments of the region, all the independent governments. They destroyed Libya. It worked there. They thought they had destroyed and had control of Afghanistan and Iraq. That's not nearly so certain these days. And the only independent states that remained were Syria and Iran and they had to get to Iran through Syria. They've given up effectively, on Iran to a fair degree, just as they gave up on Cuba I suppose more recently. But they've maintained their economic sanctions. So Washington has changed its project in relation to Cuba and in relation to Iran during this conflict and they're going to have to change their approach to Syria in some sort of way. But as I said, they'll look for some face-saving mechanism that doesn't appear that they have been defeated in a humiliating sort of way. Certainly their project to dominate the entire Middle East is collapsing because of what's been going on in Syria.

Harrison: Syria really sounds as if it is the battleground between the empire and its resistance and I guess that that opens up the possibility that if there is a positive solution to this crisis, in whatever form that will take, it will result in a strengthened axis of resistance in the Middle East to the American empire. I guess the other possibility is just that it will descend into even more chaos before that point is reached.

Tim: Yes.

Harrison: But it's very interesting to watch. It's very depressing to watch but I think there's also that essence of hope that at least hopefully something good might come out of this.

Tim: Well indeed, precisely because of the aggression, the resistance has grown, has strengthened effectively. And as I said, the most symbolic element of that is the fact that Bagdad has joined in very strong, close relationships with both Syria and Iran, something that Washington never wanted to happen.

Harrison: Well I think we'll end it there Tim. Did you have anything else you wanted to say? Do you have any websites that you want to give to our listeners that they can go to, either for your own work or others?

Tim: I suppose just that the book is available at Global Research. You already mentioned that. That book's available. I believe the hard copies are coming out later this month too, but the electronic version is available now and maybe you can direct them to that one.

Harrison: Alright. We'll include a link on our page. I just want to thank you again Tim.

Tim: A pleasure.

Harrison: It's been great talking to you and I hope we can keep in touch and learn more about what's going on.

Tim: Thanks very much.

Elan: Thank you for being on Tim.

Tim: My pleasure.

Harrison: Alright. Joining us now in the studio I think we've got Joe and Niall. Guys, are you there?

Joe: Yup. We're here.

Harrison: Okay. How's it going?

Joe: Hi.

Niall: Hello.

Corey: Hey!

Harrison: So for listeners, this is our new format. This is a Behind the Headlines show. Behind the Headlines will be covering new-related stuff and current events and Truth Perspective will be doing other topics and interviews, history, psychology, weird stuff. So we're happy to have you guys here.

Joe: Well we're very happy to be here.

Niall: It's great to be on Behind the Headlines again. Good interview guys!

Harrison: Thanks. It was great to talk with Tim. Like we said, he's been covering this stuff in-depth and if you just go to his Facebook page it's public and you can follow him and he posts tonnes of updates every day, links to articles, videos and news bytes that you won't find anywhere else really. So check him out. Actually earlier in the show, at the beginning I mentioned that clip of John Kirby. I've actually got one of them. I'm just going to play it so we can have a little bit of a laugh and maybe make fun of him a bit. So one sec.
Questionner: If al-Nusra is obviously in certain areas of Aleppo and they keep bombarding other areas, should that give the government or government troops the right to go ahead and respond or defend itself and attack it?

Kirby: So let me say a couple of things here. In Aleppo it's certainly no surprise to anybody, that in Aleppo it's a very fluid, dynamic environment and you have interspersed and intermingled frankly in neighbourhoods in Aleppo, groups like al-Nusra, which are not party to the cessation and are legitimate targets, and you also have opposition groups that are party to the cessation. And there is a lot of intermingling that's happening because it is such a fluid dynamic environment.

Questionner: Have you told them?

Kirby: Have we told who?

Questionner: Have you told - for a lack of a better phrase - your guys, have you told them to get out?

Kirby: We have certainly communicated our concerns about the situation in Aleppo and the cessation and the very fluid nature of the situation there. We certainly have relayed that to opposition groups that we're in direct contact with. We've also...

Questioner: And is it your understanding that they have heeded your advice or your calls?

Kirby: Well I think you can just see by what's going on that there continues to be an intermingling.

Questioner: So they're not listening to you.

Kirby: Well I'm not going to say that. I'm just saying that we continue to see a very fluid dynamic situation on the ground. Obviously we'd like to see the intermingling avoided.
Elan: Well, I counted...

Joe: What intermingling is he talking about there?

Harrison: This is the intermingling of the moderate rebels with al-Nusra in Aleppo province and elsewhere.

Joe: Quit their mingling!

Elan: And as you know Joe, it's a very fluid situation. A fluid dynamic.

Joe: This guy Kirby is a retired rear-admiral in the US Navy and I think that's pretty much one of the highest ranks you can get in the navy so he would know all about fluid situations having spent most of his life on the sea. So I was like yeah, it's kind of fluid. It takes me back - oh hang on, I'm having a flashback to the navy.

Niall: Water from horizon to horizon.

Joe: Water everywhere.

Niall: That's the fluid.

Joe: Yeah, what he should say there is "Look, I'm a rear admiral, right? I used to spend a lot of time at sea and all I saw was the sea and as everybody knows it's fluid there. It's very difficult to tell one wave from the next. They're all kind of fluid, right? They're made of the same fluid, so it's difficult to tell and that's the same situation as in Aleppo right now. You have some fluid rebels of one description and fluid rebels of another description and it's fluid and I don't want to say that they're not listening to me because I don't talk to them at all. I'm just reading from a script that I was given by the CIA."

Niall: "Yeah, it's like the sharks and the dolphins. We spend a lot of time trying to prevent intermingling between the sharks and the dolphins, but we didn't have much success because the situation's fluid." Thanks Joe.

Harrison: Yeah.

Joe: So the guys just full of shit. But what I want to know is how the US state department can pick those people. You had what-do-you-call-her? Psaki.

Harrison: Yeah, Jen Psaki.

Joe: And then we went to...

Niall: Blondie. What was her name?

Harrison: She was the other one, Harf?

Joe: Harf. Harfy barfy. So it was like Jen Psaki was just screwing up all over the place and they bring in this Harfy barfy person who's almost like a cut out of Psaki but with a different face and she's just messing things up all over the place as well. Then they say "Our problem obviously is it's a woman here. These women aren't working out. Let's get a guy." And then they shunt in Kirby and Kirby is just BSing people left, right and centre and even the most simple questions that are self-evident questions. Like the journalists sitting in the press room are just asking stuff that is patently obvious so he comes out with a line of bullshit and then they'll say "So what you're saying is x, y and z" which is exactly what the answer is and he's like "No! That's not what I'm saying. I'm not saying that." "You kind of just did say that." "No, no, I don't want to go over this again."

It has to be such a horrible job unless the guy is just a nut case and enjoys it, but can you imagine having to go out there and be a sane person and know that you just have to spout increasing levels of nonsense and bullshit that really don't answer the question and you don't have any real answers to any of the questions, you certainly don't have any information you can actually give out and you cannot tell the truth.

Harrison: You have to do it with this fake sense of sincerity.

Joe: Yes! It's like you're remit is to go out there and tell lies and you know they're lies. It's not that you think it's the truth. You know that they're lies and you have to just stop the truth from getting out at all costs. But the thing is, the truth in those situations is like a giant elephant in the state department press room, sitting there trumpeting and wrecking the place and John Kirby's saying "That's not our truth. I don't know what that elephant is. I've never seen it before"

Niall: Their failsafe is to that those state department press briefings don't make the night time news in the US. We only know about them because RT show them and that's mainly on the internet.

Joe: Yeah, they aren't made publically available.

Niall: So of course the Americans will only see the other guy, Ernest in the White House press room.

Joe: Yeah, and he's got all sorts of...

Niall: And that's carefully controlled. There's no way anything will be...

Joe: Yeah. Well you can imagine that organizations like CNN and other news networks would not carry the kind of crap that Psaki, Harf and Kirby are now coming out with because it's just embarrassing. There's a clear and present danger if they were to show that to the American people that even the most clueless amongst people in western countries would go "I think he's telling a lie!" "I think he's not being honest." It would just be pretty obvious, kind of like "yeah!"

Harrison: Well there was another clip - I can't remember if it was Mark Toner or John Kirby - but I think it was also from Friday. There was one reporter asking about the recent news about the F-16 sales to Pakistan I believe, and he was asking "Well who's paying for the planes?" So Toner says "Oh, I'm going to have to refer you to the White House on that" and then 15 minutes later in the same press conference, the same reporter says "I was just on my phone here talking to my colleague in the White House press department and they referred us to the state department." So right there live they were getting bounced back and forth and Ernest I believe, who's the White House guy, said "Oh, we're going to have to ban wifi in these from now on. But seriously I was being totally honest. I was under the impression that that was a White House question."

Joe: Yeah. They probably spot those people in the milieu that hang around Washington and the Pentagon and they just pick those people that have been the spokespeople in the state department. They probably have this particular set of qualities or characteristics that make them eligible for that job. One of them is probably ass-kissing and maybe have to be really, really annoying people and maybe it's seen as the worst job in the government because these people are really annoying and not very bright and they think it's a really cool job.

Niall: "Who can we put up there that will repel press interest?"

Joe: Or just drive them insane by not answering the questions. "Who can not answer a question in as many different ways as possible?" They're the ones with the job. It's interesting what he was saying there. It is a bit of a joke. It's a farce, mingling. Did you hear the guy from AP...?

Harrison: AP - Matt Lee?

Joe: AP, Matt Lee, yeah, saying "For want of a better word, your guys - have you told them to get out of Aleppo?" And he said "Yeah, we've told them but there's intermingling." "Well have you told them not to intermingle?" "Yeah, but they didn't know how to translate that word into Arabic so we don't know what's going on."

Harrison: He avoided the question. He didn't answer it directly. So he didn't answer 'yes', he said "Well we've made them aware of the situation and the possible dangers but as you see from the situation on the ground, they are obviously not heeding those warnings and so they are still there." But he never actually denies or affirms that he told them to get out.

Niall: They're not allowed to be caught in the situation where they've expressly said that they're in direct communication with particular groups in Syria or in the region in general. There was a senate hearing and US generals were up with Ash Carter this week as well and it was a similar kind of non-answers given, evasiveness but at least there in that case, they expressly cite national security, i.e., 'I can't answer that question because we're not able to say. It's an ongoing active operation", yada, yada. "We can't say who exactly we're talking to." So that's why when it comes back to Kirby in the state department, he won't ever say "Yes we relayed the message to X" because next week that group X might be the bad guy in the media. They don't want anyone to be able to refer back to it. They're trying not to get themselves caught in their own words basically. Of course they are already in a complete knot, but they think that being evasive and citing national security and so on keeps the situation, as he said, fluid.

Harrison: It leaves open so many possibilities.

Elan: Well that's the thing. If they don't have a specific person that they're directing this information to, no one's accountable. It's like practically the same situation with the Geneva talks where you don't really have any kind of legitimate leaders taking responsibility, offering an alternate plan in ruling Syria in a way that would be better than Assad's, which is their whole platform. So there's never any accountability. The buck doesn't stop anywhere and the way that the US has set it up, people are buying it or ignoring it or they just don't know that the dynamic is just that fluid.

Harrison: In Aleppo right now, we mentioned just briefly during the interview what was going on, but there is a Syrian army offensive going on right now in Aleppo. Just from the last few days the news is that the US, Russia and Syria have announced this so-called regime of silence in the province of Latakia, which is to the northwest - that's where the Russian airbase is - and in the city of Damascus. So it's like a ceasefire within a ceasefire. It's supposed to last three days in Latakia and a day in Damascus and it just got extended for another day in Damascus I believe.
Apparently it's been successful so far. Basically the idea was that the fighting would stop completely in Latakia and Damascus. There have been incursions and fights going on in those regions still. In Latakia which is on the border with Turkey they've had several mountain tops that have been taken and then retaken by other forces and it goes back and forth, so it's been kind of a drain on Syrian resources. So the HNC, the Saudi-backed opposition group in the Geneva conventions, has said that the Syrian army is using this regime of silence in order to regroup and send more troops to Aleppo, which is probably true and I think that's probably the best thing to do because Aleppo is where they need to be right now.

So that's going on. We'll see what happens in the next couple of days with the battle of Aleppo. But right after this regime of silence was announced, just in the past day or two, there have been, coincidentally or not, car bombings in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Russia. There was one just this morning in Russia. To me these seem to come up out of nowhere. We've seen car bombings in the news pretty much weekly, but this was four of them in 24 hours. So I was wondering if maybe those were connected.

Joe: It's always hard to know. You have to look at each one but certainly the bombings in Iraq are just a continuation of the influence or the effects of US military's invasion and presence in Iraq since 2003, since they invaded. In 2003 when the invasion happened Iraq was basically overtaken and there's a long process there obviously of the US attempting to turn Iraq into a country that would effectively be in the pocket of the US but it hasn't necessarily gone in that direction. But throughout all those years when things weren't going in the direction, or to try and keep Iraq on a certain course, going in a certain political direction, they used those kind of terror attacks. Either directly or indirectly they had their proxies carrying out bombings and they have not ceased. That's what people don't realize.

When you mentioned on just yesterday killing a lot of people, they've been going on continually for the past 13 years and that is a direct result of the US having invaded the country. Of course worse than that is the fact that they've killed 1.5 million people and destroyed the country and now they're just trying to put pressure on - and of course Daesh or ISIS or whatever is part of it. These bombings are now ascribed to Daesh or ISIS and you notice that after 2003 it was Zarqawi or Al-Qaeda who was doing it. People have a memory, right? Some people do. It's not that long ago it should have played a fairly big part in peoples' minds over the past 13 years of the US war on terror. It was new. It started after 9/11. We didn't have an unending global war on terrorism before 9/11 and we had it afterwards. It's probably one of the defining aspects of the past 13 years and still going on.

But if people, as part of that awareness of that whole war on terror and what's happened since 9/11 realize or notice the way that Al-Qaeda just disappeared or transformed in some way into ISIS and it turned into Syria and now it's the NATO attack on Libya, but now Daesh is in Syria. It's just 'make it up as you go along' basically. If you just understand that it's imperialism by proxy, it's fairly clear what's actually happening. What it comes down to is terror attacks. It's bombings and terrorism and blowing up people and blowing things up. That's the fundamental essence of western foreign policy. If they're not blowing things up directly with their own tomahawk cruise missiles or troops or war planes, then they're doing it by proxy, using their guys as they were described, just a proxy terrorist army that they keep a distance from, but do exactly the same thing as the US military does and has done in any country that they want to control. They blow things up. They blow people up. They plant bombs in marketplaces.

What's the difference between a Daesh bomb blowing up in a marketplace or a bunch of US marine grunts storming into a neighbourhood and kicking down doors and shooting 20 people? The fact is it's exactly the same. You terrorize people. It doesn't matter what they say. This is my whole problem, you know? To a certain extent I'm willing to let it exist, let it be, that people in this world would want to bomb and intimidate, murder and terrorize other people of a country into submission. That's fine, but I just want the people who actually do that, who push that policy forward and who have used that policy for several hundred years and are still using it today, to be honest about it. I want them to admit it.
What annoys me more than anything else, more than the actual killing and slaughter, if it's possible to even imagine that, more than the killing and slaughter or certainly on a par with it, is the fact that the people who are doing it are not only not admitting to it, but they are claiming to be doing exactly the opposite. It doesn't get any worse than that.

Niall: They're claiming to be preventing it.

Joe: Or preventing it or trying to stop it while they're doing it. It can't really get any more disgusting or reprehensible. It's one thing for someone to go out in a fit of rage or greed or whatever and steal and kill or whatever because they wanted stuff. But then to not only be in a position to do it, but then to go ahead and claim that you were actually trying to prevent that from happening, somehow being able to manage it where you can go in and kill and murder and slaughter and then say "Yes. We need to stop this. This is terrible. Who is doing all this wanton destruction and terrorism? Who's carrying this out? This is terrible. We need to do something about it. We're going to get in there and stop it happening." And they go in and they do some more.

It's kind of annoying. I can't think of anything much more annoying than that.

Corey: And the fact that they stake their whole existence on it. The entire existence for America is to spread freedom and democracy to the entire world and it's been that way since the very first days of the revolution, the founding fathers. We got our constitution. We got our freedom. We got our bible. Now we're going to the rest of the world to save everybody from the evildoers. Communism came up and now flash forward and year after year, just war after war after war. I can see what you're saying.

Joe: It brings it down to a personal level. Can you imagine someone who does that personally, like someone in your personal space or in your personal environment, your local environment, someone you know who persistently goes around doing things that affect you negatively and then barefaced says "No, that wasn't me." Or it doesn't even get to the point where they say it. They usually point to someone else and say "They did it." But you know it was them.

Niall: That's the problem. They're rarely, if ever on the defensive.

Joe: Yeah, as soon as they do something to affect you negatively, they rush over and say "What happened? Who did that? Let's get the person who did that! What happened there?" They run up behind you slapping you in the back of the head then going "He ran that way!" But eventually after a while you can't do that so often before you go "You know, I know it's you that's doing this."

Corey: "You've been doing this my whole life."

Joe: And can you imagine how annoying that would be, if somebody persistently did that and would never, ever admit to it! Any time there was any sense that you were going to challenge them or point out that they're the ones who are doing it, they just up their propaganda. It's kind of crazy-making. It's one thing to say if you know someone's doing that it's really annoying, but it's also kind of gas-lighting, the term gas-lighting is a psychological kind of term where people would basically do stuff and then deny that they did it to mess with your head basically. It's kind of like they're doing that to the globe, to as many people that are watching as possible.

Niall: It's a key, key component of why terror works, the unknown source of the terror. Okay, they go on and on and they have narratives about who they are so that basically Muslim, basically fanatics and so on. But still they haven't quite clicked with the masses of people. It's still a largely unknown. "Well who exactly?" And now and then there's a trial or there's some kind of process, trial by media even, something, anything! Give me a face and a name! But that actually doesn't happen enough to dissatisfy. There's still this vast unknown terror that just interjects.

Joe: Right.

Niall: A bomb goes off in the marketplace...

Joe: That's why we should call it the boogieman. They may as well say the boogieman. Psychologically the effect on the average person of these terror attacks anywhere in the world, but in western Europe, etc., is to say "The boogieman did it and he's under your bed!" "Who planted that bomb in the marketplace that I nearly died in, that I saw lots of people dying in and lost family members?" "That was the boogieman. They're coming to getcha!" And they're like "Okay. Well can you protect us against the boogieman? Is there some way we can stop the boogieman from doing that?" "Yep! Just rely on us. We'll do it for you." "Okay." You may as well use that term as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Daesh. We don't need to go through them all. In a few years ISIS will have disappeared and there'll be a new name. And eventually I think they will actually get to boogieman because they'll have run out of terms to describe people and they'll just say al-Boogie or something.

Harrison: Al-Boogieman!

Niall: Or just refer to "the terror". The terror did it.

Joe: Yeah. The terror. It's nothing. The never ending story. The nothing.

Niall: That's it. It's the never ending story. There's an additional twist where when people look to their leaders with the question in their face saying "Well can you protect us from it?" they don't directly say "Yes, you're safe with us." That's obviously the message coming through all the time. But they say "Well kind of. It's going to take forever and we need this and this and this and this and this. Please sign here." "Okay."

Joe: And then people are like "That sounds a bit unreasonable. I don't want to do that." And people walk away and then they say "Hit 'em again! Push the shock button again. Pavlov dog them again." They're hoping that eventually people will succumb, the brave peoples' spirits in this way. They're fighting an uphill battle really on that one because like you were just saying Niall, they can never investigate these things too much. It's not a real genuine threat. In that it's not being a real genuine threat there's two problems. One is you can't actually investigate it too much or have a full media investigation in a genuine way to figure out what's going on and the second one is if it was a real, genuine threat, it would be pretty quickly dealt with and it would be gone.

If you look at the way they go into these countries, look at what they did to Libya. It was a thriving state with six million people, a leader of 40 years loved by the people, decent enough army, decent infrastructure, everything and they were able to go in there and in 11 months destroy the place, kill the leader and ruin the country. That's just NATO. But apparently 20,000 or 30,000 jihadis are just somehow unstoppable. That speaks to the fact that there's a lot of bullshit going on. They're conjuring fantasies. Like I said, if you come back to the boogieman, it's this unstoppable force that is just almost abstract. It has a certain level of unreality to it because a major part of it is to scare people. It's like a scary story but that unreality has a real basis as well in the fact that it is unreal in the sense that there isn't a major network of Muslim terrorists who are really well-trained and can come into any country anywhere in the world and kill lots of people and then just disappear again like Ninjas. They're jihadi Ninjas.
What I'm trying to say here kind of speaks to what you were saying about the fact that it isn't taking hold of peoples' minds. People aren't able to get a proper grasp of it and understand that there's something real and I think it points to the bullshit nature of the actual threat and also the fact that they want it to be that way because when they keep it nebulous it keeps people scared. But it also poses a problem for them in that people can't just go "I don't really feel like it's a real threat to me so I'm really going to be scared so I'm not really going to assign totalitarian powers to government."

Niall: Yeah, because the terror wears off. The effect of the sense of danger, of physical threats wears off and all you're left with is the unknown "Who exactly is doing this?". When a fairly rational person is asking the question it's much harder for you to satisfy him if he's not also terrified.

Joe: Right.

Niall: Which is why they have to keep doing it.

Harrison: Speaking of being terrorized, with the jihadi threat people aren't really buying it in a lot of cases but in the US at least, there is a very real threat from a different group.

Corey: And who could that be?

Harrison: And who could that be? Well I think right now, if you guys are cool with that...

Joe: Yeah.

Harrison: ...we can go to Brent's weekly police state roundup. So let's find out what's going on here.

Joe: Play the police state jingle. {sirens, various police/citizen "interactions"}

Harrison: Brent, are you on the line?

Joe: That was live.

Brent: Yeah, hey guys. Can you hear me?

Harrison: Hey Brent, yeah.

Joe: Hey Brent. That wasn't the jingle actually this week was? That was live, wasn't it? From your neighbourhood?

Brent: Yeah, it could be. We get sirens all the time.

Harrison: Yeah, Brent's blasting the tunes and filming the police sirens going by.

Joe: What have you got for us this week?

Brent: Basically there's a number of different things in the headlines. First one I wanted to talk about was a dash cam video just released. This incident occurred back in Chicago in 2013 but the video of it was just brought out. Basically a reverend, this lady Catherine Brown was heading home. She was trying to pull in her driveway when a police cruiser with no lights or sirens on came barrelling down towards her vehicle and she didn't know what to do so she slammed on her horn and thankfully that stopped the cops from ramming her. But she didn't realize that they were going to get out and start to assault her.

So the first thing that happened was these two officers, Officer Michelle Morsi Murphy and Officer Jose Lopez, blocked her from entering her driveway and got out of their car and Officer Lopez went right up to her vehicle, pulled out his gun and pointed it straight at her head. Keep in mind this woman had done nothing wrong. She was just trying to get home. She also had two small children in her car. Before she could do anything she's got a gun pointed at her head. She doesn't know what to do, so she calls 911, tries to back her car up and I guess the police took that as some sort of slight to their authority. Officer Murphy who was still in the police cruiser decided it was a good idea to ram into this lady's car.
So they ram her and then eventually get the door open, spray her with pepper spray, coating the children, and rip her out of the car, throw her to the ground. The dash cam video clearly shows Officer Lopez smiling while he is beating on this woman, who's innocent of any crime. Like I said, that dash cam video was just released this week. She was charged with attempted murder, all this stuff, but luckily now that it's coming out, the charges are being fought.

So that's just one example. The Chicago PD is notorious for being very aggressive and abusing their authority.

There was another viral video this week. It looks like it was from North Carolina but we're not exactly sure. It's a 50 second video of a police officer harassing a girl who's trying to go to the bathroom, asking her for ID. And in the video you can see the girl is dressed kind of gender ambiguously. She's got long hair. You can clearly tell that she has breasts through her shirt, but nonetheless the cop continues to harass her, asks her for ID.
It's just this insanity right now in the US quoting the media is the whole threat from gender queer or transsexual people having the right to use whatever bathroom that they feel they need to use. This is stealing all the headlines and it's being broadcast left and right. Now they have these laws, I think in North Carolina they just passed, called HB2 which was passed into law last month, where police are now actively enforcing what they're calling "toilet checks" and anybody whose gender is questionable, police are now asking them to generate ID if they want to use a certain bathroom.

This 50 second viral video has 3.5 million views already. It just really highlights how this kind of tension is being used to give the police more authority to harass individuals, especially trans individuals or gender queer individuals who really suffer a brunt of harassment on a daily basis already.

Then there's another story. There's a trial happening right now for an officer who is being tried for voluntary manslaughter who back in January of 2014 killed 18-year-old Keith Vidal in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Keith suffered from schizophrenia and he was in the middle of having a psychotic episode. His parents didn't know what to do so they called 911 for help. Some local officers showed up and they were kind of talking him down. A third officer arrived at the scene - and this is the guy that shot him. His name is Sgt. Byron Bassey and he insisted that they tase the individual so one of the other officers produced a taser and she shocked him. He went down to the ground and the third officer tackled him and was able to get on top of him and was struggling with him.

Then Sgt. Bassey was heard saying "We don't have time for this" before walking over and shooting Vidal point blank less than two minutes after arriving on the scene and his one shot killed this mentally ill individual. He's on trial for voluntary manslaughter and the two other officers are testifying against him. This highlights another incidence of police being called to help a situation or to de-escalate a situation and we have another example of them just escalating it to the point of killing somebody! It demonstrates total lack of care for this individual's life. Several people are reporting that they heard him say "We don't have time for this" as if he was frustrated by having to fulfil his duty.

Elan: I read that story as well Brent and I think they also ate his liver afterward. They cut it out and ate his liver?

Joe: Voluntary manslaughter? Voluntary manslaughter. What is manslaughter again?

Niall: Accidental killing.

Joe: A voluntary accident.

Niall: It's a contradiction in terms.

Brent: It goes back to highlight the point that whenever these officers are involved in killing somebody in questionable circumstances, they are treated with the utmost, lightest feather touch.

Joe: Just going to say leniency, yeah?

Brent: Yeah, Total leniency. I'm seeing more and more that they're actually being charged. There seems to be more people with video cameras and these incidences are being recorded, it's like the narrative the police generate can't be maintained because it just becomes so clear from the evidence that they're lying.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's probably in 99% of the cases that have actually come to light that the police generally lie about things. I think that's just the tiniest percentage of stuff that goes on because most of it is covered up before it even comes to light. That reminds me of the FBI. It was part of the Boston Bombings thing. We were writing about it at the time. It was a friend of one of the Boston Bombers who, a month or two later, was killed by a couple of FBI agents in his apartment and they made up some story about how he'd attacked them. Apparently this guy had a broken leg. There were a lot of strange circumstances around it, but it seems like he was just executed in his apartment by the FBI.

But the interesting point that came out of it was the fact that a statistic that the FBI had over the past 15 or 20 years, investigated several hundred events or incidents where FBI agent behaviour was in question and in every single one of them they had found no evidence of any wrongdoing. Not once! And I think all of them that were investigated were incidents where people were killed by FBI agents and in every single incident, they were exonerated effectively. But that was of course the FBI investigating itself and of course I'd say the same holds true for the police. The police more or less, even with a police ombudsman or a police investigative body into those things, they're pretty much one and the same thing. So it amounts to the wrongdoers investigating themselves and finding themselves faultless.

Niall: Well the FBI is an agency of the department of justice so, injustice.

Joe: There's one other thing I wanted to say in general about the police brutality that's just gone through the roof, in the US in particular over the past 10 or 15 years. It seems to be since 9/11 as well. 9/11 did something to everything. But anyway, the question of police brutality in the US and what the response from the authorities is, that these are just a few bad apples, you see this from ordinary people as well, on YouTube videos, it almost invariably comes up on the comments in YouTube videos of police brutality where more than one person commenting will say "Most police are good people trying to serve and you should not criticize them all." That misses the point that there are enough incidences now and have been over the past number of years, of police brutality that I'd say certainly people all of those people who are aware of them, have just cause to be very concerned, because there's so many of them, about whether or not one of those bad apples is in that car.

Corey: It's not just the number of these cases but also the fact that it's so easily covered up and these murderers get away with it so easily, which points to the institutionalization of this brutality.

Joe: Right, yeah. It's the prolific nature of it. It's not just a few bad apples. It's quite a large number of bad apples. And okay, it's still maybe a small percentage, but if it's 10% for example - let's say there's 10% bad apples. Well that means you've got a one-in-ten chance of finding a cop or being stopped by a cop in the US who may decide that he doesn't have time for this and shoots you. So with those statistics, how are you going to feel whenever you get stopped by a cop car? You're going to feel "I have a one-in-ten chance of being shot here!" And it's going to put you on edge and then that brings in all the other semi-bad apples, you know, the ones that aren't rotten to the core but just have a few worms in them or something or going sour maybe, or just been on the shelf for too long. Those ones can be activated by the tension or nervousness of the citizen who's justifiably nervous because of the real bad apples.

So it has a potential to spiral downwards, just to get worse and worse when you have a lot of ordinary citizens who are concerned or worried, nervous about being stopped by a policeman. And that puts them on their guard and makes them defensive which causes a reaction in the police officer and you just end of having a lot more cases of interactions between citizens and police where it goes bad, goes wrong.

Corey: You have this same thing in schools too, with 80-90% of schools these days having police officers within the building to monitor students and to step in to do crowd control when necessary. It wasn't too long ago that there was a video that went viral of a young girl who was being disrespectful to her teacher and to an officer and she was body slammed on the floor and just like you said Joe, in the comments people were saying "Well this is just a case of not teaching the girl the proper manners. She doesn't respect authority." What percentage of the officers in these schools are these bad apples or these rotting apples?

Joe: Right.

Corey: What are they doing around these children? What influence are they having on these children and in these classrooms?

Joe: And it brings up the question of authority, of questioning authority. You have to define what kind of authority we're dealing with here. Is it the authority that holds life and death over me and that can, with impunity, shoot me if they don't have time for me? Am I to respect that authority? Well yeah, that's what they hope! They hope that by increasing the police state nature of society and increasing the number of violent trigger-happy cops, that people will accept and bow down to authority and keep their mouths shut. But who wants to accept that kind of authority? Who wants to respect that kind of authority? That kind of authority does not deserve respect because it's a brutal authority.

But they're still passing it off as "Well just respect authority. It's the authority!" Well authority should be a benevolent authority. It gets respect because it treats people well. It doesn't get respect because it treats people badly. But it increases the negative aspect or nature of the authority by treating people badly and then people react against it and then they come down harder on it and again it's the kind of thing that just spirals out of control.

Brent: Yeah. I believe that officer that slammed that girl in South Carolina, had the nickname of Officer Slam and was suspected of using steroids. He had almost a 200 pound advantage in size over that teenage girl. These guys clearly have reputations for behaving like this and some would pose it that that's what's sought and that's how they're trained. When you get to their training, if you talk to ex-cops and how they're trained, they're shown videos where police hesitate for a second on using deadly force and because of that they're shot or they're killed and they drill this into these new recruits' minds that if you're not willing to just immediately pull that trigger, then you could die or your partner could die. So the training is very questionable.

Corey: Especially in the classroom setting.

Brent: Oh yeah!

Joe: Yeah. Pull the trigger in the classroom.

Brent: Unarmed teenagers. It's just a joke. And then it comes back to the fact that you could argue that police in this day and age are terrorists. They inspire fear in the average citizen, especially in people that are well aware of these stories and how frequently these events pop up. It's just unbelievable how much fear the police, who are ostensibly there to protect and serve the populace to prevent violent acts and to de-escalate situations, that they do the exact opposite. It gets back to the whole situation on the globe where we see the US is supposed to be this bastion of freedom and democracy and in fact it's quite the opposite.

Joe: They're just making things worse, yeah. That's a big hope in the US and elsewhere on a global scale. They're hoping that the more they turn the screws on people, the more brutality they inflict on people, the more control, the more people will accept oppression, will lie down and stay down basically. These people don't realize that just on the human level, that that hasn't worked in the past. Ask any British imperialist or even any American imperialist or any other imperialist, or look at the history of imperialism. People only take so much abuse before they just lose the plot. They do react. You can't keep your jackboot on their necks forever! These people think that they can and they're going to find out that they can't and it's all going to go pear-shaped. Those bad apples are going to make things go pear-shaped.

Brent: There was another story about a cop in Jacksonville, Florida who was caught in two separate videos beating up on a handcuffed woman twice. Now granted this woman was drunk and belligerent. She was arrested but I guess the officer felt that he was entitled to some sort of vengeance and beat this woman bloody. There are two separate videos of her. In the first one he slams her face into the concrete repeatedly. In the second one was when they were in the actual police station. She may have attempted to trip him and grazed the side of his leg with her foot and he goes over and just pounds on her, head and face, just beats at her with his fists!

It's like these guys are on a hair trigger and if they feel the slightest bit threatened or the slightest bit disrespected, they go off. And they go off on people who may not be completely innocent of any wrongdoing, but ostensibly were entitled not to be treated with cruel, unusual punishment. If you're drunk and belligerent, okay, you get arrested, you may get a fine. They take you into the police station and stuff, but that doesn't entitle an officer to beat you bloody. It's just unreal!

There's another video. This was from earlier in the week in Atlanta, Georgia. A guy completely innocent of any wrongdoing was shopping at a Walmart and an off-duty cop who was doubling as a security guard there suspected this man of stealing a tomato that he had actually paid for. The guy's name was Tyrone Carnegay. He was jumped by this off-duty officer, pummelled. His leg was broken. He had an artery severed in his leg. He spent three days in jail before the charges were finally dropped and the interaction was all caught on security cameras.
All he had to do was walk up to the guy and ask him for his receipt, but he didn't even do that. He just went off. More and more we see these officers, as soon as they have any inkling that you're guilty, the switch goes off in their mind and they lose it. They become almost animalistic and attack these people without a second thought. And then what we see is the system comes down and protects them. They're given very lenient treatment. "Oh, they were doing their job" and very rarely do we see any actual repercussions against these people, even when they do come back.

There was an incident where two brothers in Missouri were assaulted by off-duty police officers in a restaurant. The cops got in there and asked these two men for their ID and started harassing them. One of the men was a criminal justice major and he was with his brother. They were aware of their rights and having done nothing wrong they refused to produce ID and that's when the switch went off and the police started to get physical. They attacked them and then charged them with assaulting an officer and all this stuff. It comes out later that they were innocent of any wrongdoing and then the two men sued the city and won and they got a six figure settlement. These settlements always come out of the pockets of the taxpayer. They don't come out of police pension funds. They don't come from the individual officers. Even when they're considered in the wrong or they've done something wrong, it's not the police that have to make up for it. It's the taxpayer. And that just makes absolutely no sense.

Niall: So the people are punished.

Brent: Yeah.

Niall: Interesting.

Brent: That would be money for infrastructure, money for social welfare programs that just vanishes. And these are large settlement - anywhere between six figures and several million dollars.

Niall: Crazy!

Elan: I was just looking at an article about the TSA and how whistleblowers within the TSA in the US get punished routinely for coming out and reporting wrongdoing on the part of either other employees or the higher stationed supervisors of the TSA. So it just seems in hearing these stories again, that there is this institutionalized aggression. It's like if you're not out there beating up on people, if you're not out there abusing them, you're not doing your job. It not only allows for the bad apples to give themselves permission to go nuts on people, but it also encourages the worst in those police officers who might not otherwise have an inclination to do things that we're seeing.

Harrison: Well on that note, Brent thanks for coming on today for another great weekly police state roundup, not to be confused with Monsanto's roundup. But maybe they should get into something like that. Produce a cop roundup. Well thanks Brent.

Joe: Roundup for the cops.

Brent: Yeah. No problem.

Niall: Thanks Brent. Take care.

Elan: Bye Brent.

Harrison: So next week Elan, do you want to say what we're talking about next week?

Elan: Well I prefer to maintain a little suspense, but we have a very interesting guest next week, David Jacobs, author of Secret Life, The Threat and a new book which we'll be discussing. If you're unfamiliar with his name, he has been researching UFOs and alien abduction for several decades. He's quite established and we think it's going to be a really fantastic interview. So tune in.

Harrison: Alright.

Joe: We look forward to that one.

Harrison: Yeah. Thanks to Tim Anderson for coming on the show today. Thanks to Brent and Joe and Niall. Thanks guys.

Corey: Thank you everyone.

Joe: No problem. Thanks everyone and maybe we'll be back next week maybe.

Harrison: We'll see how long the interview goes but if you guys want to participate that's great.

Joe: Well you guys take care of the weird stuff.

Elan: We're in the weird department.

Harrison: We'll see. We'll make an announcement later this week.

Joe: If we think of anything weird to say we'll come on and say it afterwards.

Harrison: Alright. Thanks everybody.

All: Good-byes.