Useful Idiots
Useful Idiots with Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper
US sanctions block aid to earthquake-hit Syrians
US sanctions block aid to earthquake-hit Syrians

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“Sanctions are a form of war. They’re economic warfare. And they destroy people’s lives.”

Joshua Landis (, Sandra Mackey Chair in Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, is one of the foremost experts on Syria. This week, as Syria, along with neighbor Turkiye, grapples with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, Professor Landis joins the Useful Idiots to explain the deadly consequences that sanctions pile on to the damage.

“America likes to talk about all its precision bombing and hitting someone with a drone to avoid collateral damage,” Landis explains. “But sanctions? It’s all about collateral damage. Very little of it is targeted.”

But if you read corporate media outlets like the New York Times or Washington Post, you’d find a much different story. Both papers this week published headlines that were hastily changed when they realized they were being a little too truthful. See if you can tell the difference:


(In case you missed it, they changed it from “Syria is not able to receive direct aid from many countries because of sanctions” to “The Syrian government tightly controls what aid it allows into opposition held areas.”) When the Times accidentally tells the truth, they can always be trusted to fix their mistake.

WaPo’s original opinion headline
Their fixed headline, hours later

The original WaPo headline implored “Don’t lift sanctions of Syria to help earthquake victims.” But when they realized they were saying the quiet part too loud, they made a quick change to “Lifting sanctions on Syria won’t help earthquake victims.” Good catch.

Professor Landis knows that sanctions are exacerbating the death toll in Syria, as indicated by both original headlines. Watch the full episode to hear him explain the history of sanctions, why the poor bear the worst of their destruction, and how to help.

Plus, catch this week’s Thursday Throwdown where Seymour Hersh reveals how Lyin’ Biden blew up the Nord Stream pipeline and Katie explains why Joe Rogan’s antisemitic defense of Ilhan Omar’s non-antisemitic statements was so unhelpful. Oy.

And don’t miss the Absurd Arena’s new home: the Substack app chat. Katie and Aaron will now be live in the discussion board each Tuesday at noon EST.

It’s all this, and more, on this week’s episode of Useful Idiots. Check it out.

Watch the full interview here:

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Useful Idiots

Useful Idiots with Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper

Useful Idiots is an informative and irreverent politics podcast with journalist Matt Taibbi and podcaster/writer Katie Halper. Episodes feature on-the-road coverage of the 2020 campaign and exclusive interviews, with humor, commentary and dissection of the politics news of the week. Join Matt and Katie as they examine important stories that have slipped through the cracks and what the media got wrong – and laugh about whatever is left to laugh about.