HyperNormalisation (UK-only iPlayer) (region-free link), the new BBC documentary from Adam Curtis (previously), covers four decades leading up to today's seemingly inexplicable chaos - the Syrian Civil War, Brexit, Vladimir Putin, the Islamic State, waves of refugees, suicide bombs, and on and on. Curtis argues "all of us in the West - not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves - have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal." This version of normal, promoted by the Internet and 24-hour news cycle, is now under assault by forces that everyone from Patti Smith, Colonel Gaddafi, and Jane Fonda to Henry Kissinger, the Assad dynasty, and Putin's post-modern propagandist, Vladislav Surkov, has been trying to forget over forty years. (Youtube trailer) (Warning: footage of blood, dead bodies, etc)
In the Atlantic's April cover story, Jeffrey Goldberg interviews President Obama about his foreign policy philosophy and ultimately, its lasting legacy. [more inside]
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, describing Russia's objectives as "generally accomplished". [more inside]
"The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’"A report by Seymour Hersh alleges that Turkish PM Erdoğan's National Intelligence Organization is responsible for last August's sarin attack in Syria, in an attempt to force Obama's hand on air strikes. [more inside]
Frontline journalist Olly Lambert captures the event of a Syrian government air strike on the town of al-Bara. Powerfully upsetting and tragic, his footage conveys the sheer terror afflicting the lives of Syrian refugees struggling to survive under the Assad regime. [36min SLYT] [more inside]
The British newspaper The Guardian has obtained a cache of 3,000 emails purported to have been exchanged between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his wife, and a close circle of advisers and friends. The personal emails allegedly show Assad dismissing his government's proposed reforms, mocking the efforts of Arab League monitors to spot military tanks besieging cities, as well as Assad's wife placing extravagant shopping orders, sometimes through intermediaries. [more inside]
"I saw bodies of women and children lying on roads, beheaded." At least 260 people were killed last night in a government assault on Homs, the epicenter of the Syrian uprising. This came right before a key UN vote to support the Arab League's plan to have President Bashar al-Assad hand over power to the vice president and hold early elections for a national unity government, which failed this morning with 13 in favor and a double veto by China and Russia. [more inside]
The Crimes of Col. Qaddafi An original essay by Christopher Hitchens, that starts: In George Orwell's 1939 novel, Coming Up for Air, his narrator, George Bowling, broods on the special horrors of the new totalitarianism and notices "the colored shirts, the barbed wire, the rubber truncheons," but also, less obviously perhaps, "the processions and the posters with enormous faces, and the crowds of a million people all cheering for the Leader till they deafen themselves into thinking that they really worship him, and all the time, underneath, they hate him so that they want to puke."
Obama calls on Assad to step down. The US and EU announce sanctions on Assad's regime. The New York Times looks at the resistence in Homs. Al Jazeera has an ongoing Syrian Live blog. Enduring America continues to cover the Arab Spring.
Handshakes are an important: They've signaled new eras in international relations, but this week they reaffirmed the sad realities of our time.