By Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ, 9th July, 2016
Senator Richard Black and Janice Kortkamp discuss the shameful situation in Syria, where the US government is actively arming and funding Al Nusra (Al Qaeda) and “conduits” (“moderates”), blending them together, and then using this model to exterminate the Syrian population.
It should be noted that the mass media machine is seemingly losing its effect, as more and more prominent and senior figures (e.g Robert Fisk) are calling a spade a spade, or a “moderate” a terrorist. It just goes to show that you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but never all of the people all of the time.
Video Description (published 8th July 2016): “Virginia State Senator Richard Black and Janice Kortkamp Fearing recently returned from trips to Syria — reporting on a reality far different than the lies the American people are being fed by the media. EIR’s Jeffrey Steinberg interviews both on their meetings and experiences with top officials and everyday Syrians.”
TRANSCRIPT OF PREVIOUS INTERVIEW WITH JEFFREY STEINBERG IN MAY 2016:
JEFFREY STEINBERG: Senator Black it’s a pleasure to be here. And you’ve just returned from a trip to the Middle East, to Syria and Lebanon, and why don’t you just start by telling us what you saw and your assessments of the situation there?
SEN. RICHARD BLACK: What we did, we spent the better part of a week; we spent our time in Lebanon initially; we met with General [michel] Aoun, who is sort of the presumptive next President of Lebanon. We met with Foreign Minister [gebran] Bassil who is the head of the Christian bloc of the parliament there. And also with the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon; which is a new thing. You know the Syrians have not had an ambassador there until just recently.
From there we flew to Damascus and were then taken out and we visited Palmyra, where the Syrian army conducted an enormously heroic fight to drive out ISIS and assisted by the Russians who did a very good job there. And then we drove from Palmyra to Homs. Homs is the largest province, it’s the size of an American state, but it’s also a very large city.
It was an incredible visit, because, like you, I have studied the Syrian war, the origins of the war for years, since 2011. I know you go back before that, but this is when I got so focused on it. And the best way to explain it, is that through intensive study and what we would call “open source intelligence,” you begin to get a very clear concept of what the war is all about, and the origins of the war. But when you go there and you actually walk the grounds and you shake hands with the soldiers and meet with the refugees and people like that, it turns black and white into Technicolor. And I’m going to tell you: Syria is one of the most incredibly wonderful nations on Earth. And the fact that America set out to topple the government and destroy it, long before there was the faintest hint of civil unrest, it’s really one of the great stains on American honor.
So when I went there, one the one thing that stands out so vividly is this incredible religious tapestry of religious harmony, between the Christians, the Alawites, the Sunnis, the Shi’ites, everyone; and there is such freedom of religion in Syria, and it’s stunning. You know, as an American, here we have the Federal courts being partially repressive to Christianity in particular, and you go over there and I went to the Syrian broadcast system SANA, did an interview. And I came out and in the press room here is the plywood cutout of the Christmas tree and the ornaments are journalists who were martyred covering the war. And you think, “My gosh, if you did this in the United States, the ACLU would be all over you! You’d be in Federal court, and they’d rip down the tree.”
And we went to the theater in Homs province, in Homs city; it’s a large, modern theater, probably seated a thousand people. And they introduced me and they were very polite and receptive. And I sat next to the governor and his wife, and they’re Muslim, and so I’m watching: Here’s this choral presentation, very beautiful, everyone in tuxedos and the orchestra and a very lovely woman, and naturally, the woman very charismatic, you’re focused on her; and then gradually your eyes start to shift gaze. And then, suddenly, I look and I realize that behind them is a theater screen with a projection of Jesus Christ, bloodied, crown of thorns, staggering under the weight of the cross. And I looked at it — and I didn’t even know what they were singing, because they were singing in Arabic, right? And I realized later that they were singing Christian religious songs. And I turned to the wife of the governor, and I said, “Is this a religious theater, a Christian theater?” She said, “No, no, no, this is just a regular theater for entertainment. We put on shows, we put on concerts, everything.” But it happened that on the Julian calendar, we were there for Palm Sunday and we left just prior to Easter.
And so, she said, many of the people here for the presentation are Muslim. She said, the choral group, many of them are Muslim also. And here, they’re participating in the praise of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ! Not that they are not serious Muslims, but it’s also indescribable without seeing it in person. I had heard about it, and from hundreds of Syrians, but to see it and just to encounter it at random, you suddenly were able to “breathe” religious freedom there!
STEINBERG: I think I told you, when I was in Damascus in March of 2010, some of the things that were completely stunning to me, were the Grand Mosque right off of this great market area. You walk in there; it’s a gigantic, beautiful mosque, and right in the middle of it is the tomb of John the Baptist.
STEINBERG: And we went to parts of the old city, and we visited one of the earliest, the very first of the Christian churches anywhere in the world, and it’s just really stunning. The first event that we went to, was an ecumenical conference. It was at a Sunni religious school; there were Shi’ite, Alawite, Sunni; there were Christians, there were Franciscan monks attending; people from Scandinavian churches. And that night there was a celebration in the old city, and they had these Sunni dervishes.
So it’s what you’re describing: If you’re not there and you don’t see it, it’s almost hard to concede that this is such a natural phenomenon in this country, and you see what the Saudis and the Turks and others are trying to establish, which this hard, sectarian fight within Islam , that has no bearing on the traditional culture of Syria as a country!
BLACK: Yes, and you know, I spoke with Lebanon very senior officials, and of course, discussed this with President Assad and with the top leadership of the Syrian parliament. And one of my questions, is why is there war in Syria? We know, this was not a popular uprising. This was a calculated decision by the CIA, MI6, French intelligence, working with the Muslim Brotherhood, Turks, Saudis — an organized plan to topple the government. And of course we were familiar that there competing plans for oil and gas pipelines. And I come up a divided mind on exactly what’s going on: It is true that the oil and gas pipelines are a major, major incentive for this war.
But the other thing, that both Lebanese and the Syrians were quite insistent on, is that it is Saudi Arabia’s desire to impose Wahhabism. They’re not content that the vast majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims; now, if you listen to the press, they say, “oh, you know, we need a Sunni government.” Well, there are umpteen million Sunnis who are in the government and in high positions, and in the army and everywhere else. What they really mean is that we want Wahhabism, the type of Wahhabism that says that you impose severe, brutal Sharia law, and you begin beheading people, you force conversions and you take the wives of the Christians that you’ve murdered and you sell them at slave markets, which is happening right now in Iraq, perhaps in some parts of Syria also; but their feeling is that the true zeal behind this is this desire to impose the harshest, most extreme and violent, brutal form of Islamic rule.
STEINBERG: What you’re describing is the ISIS and the al-Nusra Front which is simply al-Qaeda, and the Saudis carry out beheadings, cutting off limbs, as their brand of Sharia law justice, exactly as ISIS and Nusra do in the areas they control.
BLACK: That’s exactly correct. And this has gone on through history. When I visited the Church of the Patriarch of Syria and the East, we went to a little adjacent, Christian school, and they had paintings of martyrs, and just as a reminder, that the history of Turkey, the Turks and the Saudis share the same history of violence towards those who do not share this most extreme view. And there was a painting that just stood out in my mind of a martyr, a woman during the Armenian genocide, a Christian, and the extremists had come in and they had amputated her feet and her hands. And she had an infant, and she cradled the infant and breast-fed the infant for the next couple days until she finally died of the torture they’d imposed on her.
So you know, they had suppressed this in Turkey under Ataturk, starting 1925. I read the Turkish Constitution; it’s admirable, it’s a very fine Constitution. But now you have President Erdogan who has said…
STEINBERG: He’s ripping it up.
BLACK: He’s tearing it to shreds, and he says “I want the powers of Adolf Hitler.”
STEINBERG: That’s right.
BLACK: Our ally. Our ally says, “I want the powers of Adolf Hitler!” Imagine that!
STEINBERG: Mm-hmm. And it was brushed off and explained away in the American media as a misquote or something like that, as if he hadn’t said it, and didn’t mean it.
BLACK: And he never retracted a word of it! But a spokesman said, “well, you know, it’s sort of out of context.” Well — gimme a break. How do you put “the powers of Adolf Hitler” out of context! You know?
STEINBERG: Right, exactly.
I wanted to ask you, because I think you made a very important point about the Saudis and what they want, the Turks and what they want, but if the United States and Western European were not in on this for their own reasons, from the very outset, I doubt that the Saudis or the Turks would have been able to create the mess. And I’m reminded that way back in 1991, right at the point that the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union were disintegrating, according to Gen. Wesley Clark, he met with Paul Wolfowitz in Dick Cheney’s office — Cheney was Secretary of Defense under Bush Sr.—and Wolfowitz went through a list of governments targeted for regime change because they had at various points, allied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And Syria was right near the top of that list; Syria, Iraq, Libya, others.
And so, I wanted to get your assessment, given the way the situation has played out, the tragedy of the last five years, do you think that this could have actually occurred were it not for the full, witting complicity of the United States, both under President George W. Bush and now, for the last seven years, under President Barack Obama?
BLACK: That’s an excellent question. If one of our assistants could hand me the black and white poster over there, I think this could help to explain it somewhat. [Placard reading “Syrian War Countdown” 16:10]
Let me just run you through this, because the timeline is extremely important: In 2001, Gen. Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe has told us, that the Pentagon was ordered by the Secretary of Defense to make plans to topple seven different countries, neutral, non-belligerent countries, in what was an act of aggression under the law of war, which is a war crime. And so, the Pentagon began war-planning 2001.
Now, President Bashar al-Assad did not take office until I think it was 2000; so he was brand new. He’d come in as a reformer. But reform, good or bad, didn’t matter; we were going to topple seven countries, all of them also enemies of the Saudi Arabians. The United States is pulled around by the nose by Saudi Arabia, and for our senior leaders in this country, they all have a meeting with Mr. Green. And Mr. Green persuades them to do whatever the Saudis tell them.
So, OK, you start with 2001, the Pentagon starts planning. In 2006, WikiLeaks has released a document that came from the Chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy; at the time, we didn’t not have an ambassador, so the Chargé d’affaires was the senior person. That document outlined, in detail, plans to overthrow the government of Syria. And the two things that stand out in my mind is, we have a problem because President Assad came in as a reformer, he’s doing a lot of positive things, and so it is drawing an enormous amount of foreign direct investment and we’ve got to smear the image of Syria so that it will begin cutting off this flow of funds, and will adversely impact the Syrian economy. This is the United States, your country and my country, saying “we’re going to destroy another country by smearing their reputation.
The other thing which I think was equally sinister, is in this country that has this beautiful religious harmony, we said have got to create religious division, religious frictions and hatred among religions, so that we can disassemble this country.
But there were six very specific things outlined. And keep in mind, in 2006, there were no demonstrations, there was no political opposition, there were no uprisings, people were prosperous, they were happy.
So here you go from 2005, we start planning the war; 2006, we come up with explicit plans. You go to 2011 and the CIA works to gain the release of the most deadly al-Qaeda operatives in Libyan prisons and uses those people to spark an uprising in Benghazi, the purpose of which — and I wish, you know, Congress, while they’re always talking about Benghazi, they never talk about before Benghazi. What was the reason we were there in the first place! Why did we attack our
ally, Colonel Qaddafi — now we have had problems with Qaddafi but we had resolved them …
STEINBERG: In 2003, he dismantled his WMD program and became — even John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham, in early 2009, were in Tripoli and said “this guy’s our best friend in our war against — ” it wasn’t ISIS yet, but “the war against al-Qaeda and the other jihadists.”
BLACK: Yes, yes. So, absolutely, he was our best ally. And however, his big mistake was he had a huge arsenal of modern weapons, that we needed, to overthrow Syria. The reason that we went into Libya was, to capture their weapons to feed and fuel the war against Syria. Because we knew, Syria was a powerfully united, cohesive nation of people who — you know, every country has people who are unhappy or who are dissidents; we have ‘em in this country — but we knew that we had a tough nut to crack here, because this was a very cohesive country. So we needed a huge amount of armaments. The reason we went into Libya was to capture these. And this is all laid out by Pulitzer Prize winning author Seymour Hersh in his article, “The Red Line and the Rat Line,” something that was censored; almost everything he’s done has been widely printed by major media, and they censored it. But the London Review of Books has it published, and he explains why we went in, how we captured the weapons, and how we started the rat line, flying arms in.
Because the CIA could not go before Congress and say, “Look, we intend to attack a neutral, non-belligerent country, where the people are happy, prosperous, and enjoy greater women’s rights and religious freedom than any other Arab nation; we’re going to rip it to shreds, we’re going to open up a torrent of bloodshed: Please give us an appropriation so we can purchase weapons to do it.”
BLACK: That would not have gone over well. So, we went around it, and we captured the weapons in Libya, sent ‘em to Syria. Three months after the war in Libya, even before Colonel Qaddafi had fallen, we started the war in Syria. And the technique that we used, — now just watch the timeline: We go from 2001, we decided to bring ‘em down then, it was 10 years! An entire decade of planning and plotting and preparing.
STEINBERG: Exactly, exactly.
BLACK: So, you look at this timeline, and then, of course, we’ve employed massive, unrelenting propaganda against President Assad and his government. We call him a “regime,” the “Assad regime.”
STEINBERG: Right, as opposed to “an elected, sovereign government.”
BLACK: Yes. Now, of course, we always ignore the fact that he was popularly elected, in fair and open elections in 2014. Now, on the other hand, we sit at Geneva III at the peace talks, and on one side we have Saudi Arabia, where if you were to suggest the election of the King or dictator of Saudi Arabia, your head would be a spike the next day; and then, on the other hand, you have President Erdogan, the man who would be Adolf Hitler! [laughter]
BLACK: It is so bizarre. And the method that we use, the specific method when we triggered this is interesting. The Arab Spring started with a single suicide, and it is very difficult to conceive that it did not spread without very active covert action. Nothing ever happens in politics, nothing just happens without a push.
So there actually began to be legitimate demonstrations in Syria as well as across the Middle East. What I found interesting, I talked to several people — I just bumped into them on my trip, and they said, “Oh, I was anti-Assad then.” Well, one of them turns out to be my interpreter; he’d been with me for the better part of a week! And one day we’re talking, and he said, “You know,” he said, “I was a demonstrator against President Assad.” And I said, “Oh, that’s interesting. Tell me about it?”
He said, “Well, we just started. It was during the Arab Spring, and we started holding demonstrations.” Much like, you and I have both probably been involved in demonstrations! But he said, “first, people started showing up with al-Qaeda flags.”