But now it has all become clear: it was The Simpsons all along.
Yes, the TV cartoon show.You may have already read about this: it's made the NYT Blog, and here are stories from Egypt Independent and Al-Arabiya.
The Egyptian TV channel Tahrir anchor noted that in a 2001 Simpson's episode, Bart Simpson's boy band makes a music video called "Drop da Bomb" in which they are shown bombing an unnamed Arab country, and the Arab soldiers shown, looking rather generic, have a flag on their vehicle:
“The flag that appeared on the vehicle on which the bombs were dropped is the flag of the Syrian opposition. This is from 2001 – before the existence of the ‘Syrian opposition,"So, presumably the CIA or someone uses The Simpsons to send messages, and in 2001 sent out the design for a flag that wasn't created until 10 years later. That makes perfect sense.
Now, as Robert Mackey noted for the NYT (linked above), the song references "Saddam," so the idea that it was a sloppy attempt to suggest the Iraqi flag, or a generic Arab flag, seems reasonable. And the idea that the Syrian opposition flag "did not exist" yet in 2001 isn't true; like the Libyans before them, the Syrian rebels chose the original independence era flag, the green-white-black tricolor was the Syrian flag from 1945-1958, though I doubt if The Simpsons knew that; apparently the TV anchor didn't. Note too that the 2001 broadcast was before 9/11.
Here's the smoking gun itself:
So it seems to me there are two possible explanations. Sharpen your Occam's Razor and choose:
- It was a generic Arab flag but probably intended to suggest Saddam's Iraq. Its similarity to the Syrian Independence flag is a coincidence. It's a freaking satirical cartoon.
- The CIA (or perhaps Bart Simpson) planned the Arab Spring a full 10 years ahead of time, including the flag of the Syrian opposition, and used its normal operationally secure means of spreading the secret: broadcasting it openly on an internationally distributed TV show.