Tuesday, November 17, 2015

old blokes drop knowledge on the great game and how it and YOU get played...,

Australian cartoonist, Bruce Petty, and Jeremy Salt, journalist and Middle East scholar, begin the first of a three part discussion on Syria by looking at where our news comes from and Jeremy's experience of Australian reporting on Middle Eastern affairs. "Are we living under false assumptions?" asks Bruce Petty. The next two films are entitled: "Does Bashar al-Assad really have to go?" and "Has the Syrian President killed more people than ISIS and similar questions."

Bruce Petty interviews Jeremy Salt. Bruce Petty is a highly regarded political satirist and cartoonist as well as an award-winning film maker. Dr Jeremy Salt is a former Fairfax journalist, turned academic and is the author of "The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands".

"There always has to be a 'madman' in the Middle East," explains Jeremy Salt, when asked why we constantly hear that 'Bashar al-Assad has to go'? Of course Bashar al-Assad is not really mad. Jeremy explains how the west, in its long exploitation of the Middle East, has invented crises that it then pretends to help with, and these tend to feature a 'madman' whom the people have to be saved from. In reaction Middle Eastern governments tend to be defensive and authoritarian, in order to survive constant foreign interference. Even if Bashar went, the Syrian state would remain the same. Salt gives a fluent history of how the west has used the Middle East, and how western politicians expected to knock Syria over easily, but underestimated it. All they have done is weaken it and assorted armed and dangerous groups including ISIS have risen up through the cracks they have created. But many Syrians really like Bashar al-Assad and think he is their best chance for reform. (See the third part in this series, "Has the Syrian president killed more than ISIS and other questions," to hear about how al-Assad is actually legally elected and had brought in reforms prior to the current crisis.) Petty asks about beheading and the role of religion and Islam in today's crisis. Salt agrees that Islam has been taken over by conservatives and extremists, but precises that this is a political ideological take-over that has little to do with Islamic religious base.

In the final of the three short interviews Bruce asks whether Bashar al-Assad has 'killed more people than ISIS' (which is a recent frequently pronounced accusation). Of course Assad has killed no-one personally, but the Syrian army has to defend the country against many armed invaders. ISIS, however, kills people it simply does not like or approve of, in horrible ways. After this Bruce asks whether Syria is an 'Alawite state'. Salt explains that, No, Syria is predominantly Sunni, and that people of all religions hold positions in government etc. (Syria is a secular state.) Is al-Assad an 'unelected, brutal dictator'? No, he is legally elected [June 2014] with a proper government and has brought a number of democratically desired reforms to the country. He is also popular. People may want changes to the government but many think he is their best hope for this to happen. "What about the Chemical Weapons?" Salt gives up to date analysis and rebuttal of these allegations.