| 27 Nov 2004 @ 23:59, by ming. Violence, War|
I just finished watching the third part of a BBC series called The Power of Nightmares: Baby It's Cold Outside, broadcast in the past three weeks. It was made by Adam Curtis. I'm sure it must have been difficult to get such a controversial thing on the air. The series makes a compelling case for concluding that the world has been seriously misled by fanatics who have painted a nightmare picture that has nothing to do with reality. And that they have done so merely to serve their own political and religious ends.
We track two movements: the U.S. Neo Conservatives and certain militant radical muslim factions. The videos do a good job at laying out their histories and philosophies and key players.
Ironically, their aims are very similar. They are groups that were horrified by the path that free societies seemed to take. What they deemed to be the moral corruption that they observed around them. Which they blamed on a society where anything goes and there were no uniform moral values. The moral decay of a liberal society. They first thought the fault was with the leaders of their societies. But they found that even when their own kind managed to seize power, it didn't change things. So they blamed the people in their regions. It was simply that everybody were too dumb and corrupted to see the truth of how they were supposed to behave. Too much freedom, and too little to guide them. So they came up with the solution. Invent a battle between good and evil. Find an enemy and paint the most nightmarish possible visions of their sinister motives and the extent of their power. Mobilize your people against the enemy, driven by the fear of what they can do to you.
But in the late 90s it wasn't really working for any of those groups. They had essentialy failed and had little public support anywhere. Until 2001 where both groups got an enormously lucky break. Somebody brought down the WTC. One group suddenly has the evil sinister enemy they had been seeking, and the other suddenly has the attention of millions of people, where before they didn't.
The Power of Nightmares began as an investigation of something else, the rise of modern American conservatism. Curtis was interested in Leo Strauss, a political philosopher at the university of Chicago in the 50s who rejected the liberalism of postwar America as amoral and who thought that the country could be rescued by a revived belief in America's unique role to battle evil in the world. Strauss's certainty and his emphasis on the use of grand myths as a higher form of political propaganda created a group of influential disciples such as Paul Wolfowitz, now the US deputy defence secretary. They came to prominence by talking up the Russian threat during the cold war and have applied a similar strategy in the war on terror.
As Curtis traced the rise of the "Straussians", he came to a conclusion that would form the basis for The Power of Nightmares. Straussian conservatism had a previously unsuspected amount in common with Islamism: from origins in the 50s, to a formative belief that liberalism was the enemy, to an actual period of Islamist-Straussian collaboration against the Soviet Union during the war in Afghanistan in the 80s (both movements have proved adept at finding new foes to keep them going). Although the Islamists and the Straussians have fallen out since then, as the attacks on America in 2001 graphically demonstrated, they are in another way, Curtis concludes, collaborating still: in sustaining the "fantasy" of the war on terror.
Which the film also provides quite some support for. There wasn't much of an Al-Qaida before 9/11. Bin-Ladin had to actually rent camouflage-clad gunmen for some of his videos, and tell them to bring their own guns. Because he didn't have much of a group. And there wasn't really much of an Al-Qaida after. A lot of middle-eastern looking folks have been detained for often very silly reasons. Accused of being sleeper cells because they took tourist videos in Disneyland. No fancy bunkers were found in Tora-Bora. Very few people have been charged with anything at all. Not that there aren't fanatical militant groups who'd love to attack the United States. And some of them might succeed. But the fantasy is the existence, extent and organization of one unified evil network.
You can see the series here:Or, get a more high quality bit torrent version from sites like this. More >
| 28 Sep 2004 @ 23:59, by ming. Violence, War|
Not that I'll make a habit of it, but it is not the kind of thing the media tend to cover much, so somebody might have missed it. A chilling way of getting a sense of some of the routine activities of the U.S. military forces in Iraq is to watch some of the leaked videos taken from helicopters while they essentially fly around and murder fairly random and sometimes unarmed people who happened to be walking in the wrong place. The latest from Falluja. Video. The audio is the most chilling part. The pilot reports that a large number of people are walking on the street and asks over the radio if he should "take them out". And the instant answer is "yes". Not armed people, mind you, just people. A rocket makes an end to them, whoever they actually were, and he exclaims "aw, dude!".
And an older one from January which actually appeared once on ABC. An Apache takes out three people, which to me look like farm workers walking around between a tractor and a truck. I'm of course not trained in quickly determining what some grey shadows seen through a night vision camera really are doing. I'm not sure the people in the helicopter are either. I do understand some things about body language, though, and it is obvious that the people on the ground didn't seem to think they had anything to hide from before the helicopter started shooting at them. And blowing away wounded people who're trying to crawl to safety certainly isn't according to the Geneva convention, if any of the rest of it is.
It shows the horror war easily becomes, particularly when one side is hovering in the air with high tech weaponry, but only a fuzzy b&w image on the screen, and the other side is unknown. It easily becomes to just kill anything that moves that looks a little suspicious, anything that possibly, potentially, maybe could be somebody who might have hostile intent. Because they maybe live in the general area where somebody else blew up somebody from your side the day before. But a lot of the time they're just farmers mounting their plough or parents taking their kids to school. War is never going to make sense. More >
|19 Sep 2004 @ 20:34, by quinty. Violence, War|
We recently had a beautiful day here in Providence, Rhode Island, and Ellen and I thought it would be nice to take the ferry out to Newport. The sky was blue and clear and as we waited for the ferry to start we saw a large brown military helicopter circling above the nearby rooftops. As it slowly turned its repetitive circles it had that familiar determined aspect of seeking something or someone out below. But everything seemed peaceful and the only disturbance nearby was caused by some seagulls fighting over a fisherman’s scraps on the edge of the dock. More >
|4 Jul 2004 @ 09:55, by quinty. Violence, War|
For you students of human nature who may be attempting to reasonably comprehend the madness in Iraq here’s a thought provoking piece by David Mamet, the playwright.
Here’s the piece: Bring It On
Violent Movies - And War Movies - Give us the Thrill of Victory. But What Happens When War Becomes a Reality? by David Mamet
Hunger, a study for the Love Peace Hate War murals by Luis Quintanilla
And here, if you’re interested, are some comments: More >
| 23 Jun 2004 @ 10:52, by ming. Violence, War|
If you wanted to hand over a set of nuclear missiles to a volatile middle-eastern government, where would you do it in suitable secrecy? The answer is the remote island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. If you remember, that's where the Bush administration equipped Israel's submarines with nuclear armed harpoon missiles last year. story.
So, what if you wanted a place to quietly store top terrorists you had captured, being free to use any methods you can think of to squeeze information out of them? Including torture, drugs and hypnosis. Diego Garcia is again a good answer. Article here at Globe Intel.
What is convenient is for one thing that the island is very remote, and that its previous inhabitants have been forcefully removed, so there's nobody there to complain. But secondly it is that the island is a British colony. Apparently a key U.S. legal ruling states that violations of American statutes that prohibit torture, degrading treatment or violations of the Geneva Convention will not apply "if it can be argued that the detainees are formally in the custody of another country". Convenient, eh. So if these guys are housed by the British, the Americans don't have to play nice any longer.
A problem is of course that the British laws certainly don't either allow for using torture against bad people. Distribution of nuclear weapons is probably not particularly kosher either. Anyway, it is Tony Blair's problem, not George Bush's, as it is done on British soil. Could be an embarrassing situation if it got a lot of publicity. But so far they're getting away with it. More >
|3 Jun 2004 @ 14:35, by bkodish. Violence, War|
Professor Khaleel Mohammed rejects the fanatical, narrow, antisemitic and anti-zionist political ideology (Islamism) that threatens to become mainstream among Muslims.
For, you see, according to Professor Mohammed, the Koran actually teaches that Israel belongs to the Jews.
The Koran and the Jews More >
|20 May 2004 @ 09:33, by jazzolog. Violence, War|
Clouds come from time to time---
and bring a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.
True words always seem paradoxical but no other form of teaching can take their place.
Death destroys a man, but the idea of death saves him.
There were 2 photographs that ended the United States involvement in the Viet Nam Civil War. One was of a Vietnamese citizen an instant before his execution by an officer of the army of his country. The other was of a child---a naked little girl running down a road crying. More >
|14 May 2004 @ 06:49, by spells. Violence, War|
World Socialist Web Site
All rights reserved
The terrible and strange death of Nick Berg
By James Conachy
14 May 2004
The terrible death of Nick Berg in Iraq—beheaded in front of a video camera—has taken place in such strange and suspicious circumstances that it raises deeply troubling questions. Among them is whether American agencies had a direct or indirect hand in the young man’s murder.
Questions immediately arise from the timing and political consequences of his killing. At the height of a massive scandal engulfing the Bush administration, Berg’s death has been exploited by the American government and the US media to launch a counter-offensive against the revelations of systematic US torture in Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons. A wholesale attempt is being made to shift American and international public opinion away from the outrage over the criminal character of the US occupation of Iraq and behind the self-serving argument that American forces are needed in Iraq to prevent the country descending into barbarism and chaos.
Were Berg’s murderers being directly paid by the American government, they could not have performed a more timely service for the Bush White House.
Berg’s killing was carried out in the name of al-Qaeda-aligned Jordanian terrorist Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi. Whoever is operating in the name of Zarqawi, they have a proven record of provocative actions that have only helped to prop up the American occupation of Iraq.
On February 9, amid signs that the majority Iraqi Shiite population was on the verge of joining the armed resistance being fought mainly in Sunni Muslim areas, a letter, allegedly authored by Zarqawi, called for Sunnis to provoke a civil war with the Shiites. American officials used the letter to argue that their occupation was the only thing holding Iraq’s religious groups apart. Several weeks later, on March 2, suicide bombings at Shiite mosques in Karbala and Baghdad were blamed on what the US now calls the “Zarqawi network.”
Contrary to the schema outlined by US officials and in Zarqawi’s letter, the bulk of the Iraqi masses spurned sectarianism. The growing unity has been on display in mass demonstrations and joint struggle since the eruption of a Shiite uprising in early April. Even before the torture revelations, the US occupation of Iraq had crumbled into a morass of bloody reprisals against the Iraqi people and growing American casualties. Opposition has been steadily growing in the US and internationally.
The group who carried out the beheading of Berg and then ensured it was broadcast around the globe must have known that it would horrify American and world public opinion and assist the efforts at damage control in Washington.
Further questions are raised by the attempts of the US government to conceal or distort what it knew about Berg himself and the events leading up to his disappearance in Baghdad on April 10. Berg vanished in Iraq just 72 hours after being released from 13 days in US military custody and questioning by the FBI.
Berg has been described by his family and friends as adventurous. He had a limited knowledge of Arabic and an interest in obtaining reconstruction contracts in Iraq for the family telecommunications company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service. In December 2003 he travelled to Iraq and went home on February 1. Among the places the young man inquired for contract work was the Abu Ghraib prison—which he referred to as a “notorious prison for army and political prisoners.” He returned to Iraq in mid-March.
CBS News revealed yesterday that the young man had been on the FBI’s books for at least two years. In 2002, he was interviewed as part of the investigations in the September 11 terror attacks, over the fact his computer password had been used by alleged al-Qaeda terrorist Zaccarias Moussaoui. According to Berg’s family, the FBI was reportedly satisfied the password was obtained during a brief encounter on a bus, when Nick Berg had allowed Moussaoui to use his computer.
On March 7, the pro-Bush website FreeRepublic.com published a list of “enemies” who were opposing the US occupation of Iraq. Among the names, taken from a public list of people who had endorsed a planned March 20 antiwar demonstration on the website of the group ANSWER, was Michael Berg—Nick’s father—and the name of the Berg family company. Such information would be entered into the databases of US intelligence agencies as well.
Berg was seized on March 24, within one week of returning to Iraq, and held incommunicado without charges in a Mosul prison for unspecified “suspicious activities.” His parents in Philadelphia were visited by the FBI on March 31 and asked why their son was in Iraq. Berg reported being interviewed at least three times during his detention by FBI agents and asked whether he had constructed pipe bombs or had visited Iran. He was released on April 6 only after his family filed a federal court case against the US government the day before for illegal imprisonment.
Dan Senor, the Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman in Iraq, claimed this week that Berg had never been detained by US forces, only by Iraqis. This has been exposed to be a lie. Berg’s family has produced an email from Beth A Payne, a US consular official in Iraq, dated April 1. Payne wrote: “I have confirmed that your son, Nick, is being detained by the US military in Mosul... He was picked up approximately one week ago.”
The chief of the Iraqi police in Mosul has also publicly rejected the claim that Berg was detained by his command. He told a press conference on May 13: “The Iraqi police never arrested the slain American. Take it from me... that such reports are baseless.”
After his release, Nick Berg travelled to Baghdad. His family last heard from him on April 9, when he reported he was looking to leave Iraq via Kuwait as soon as it was safe enough. They have indicated Berg told them he was wary of trying to fly out to Jordan on the grounds it was too dangerous. At the time, much of Baghdad was in engulfed in heavy fighting. Large parts of the city, including the roadways leading to the airport, were under constant attack by the Iraqi resistance and Westerners and Japanese had been taken hostage by various groups.
The last alleged contact with Berg by a US official was on April 10. A State department spokesperson told CBS an American diplomat offered to arrange a flight for him to Jordan. He allegedly refused and restated his intention to travel to Kuwait. His hotel has reported he left early on April 10, saying he intended to be back within a few days.
If the American government is to be believed, no US agency then took any further interest in his activities or well-being until it was apparent he had disappeared. No satisfying answers have been given to obvious questions. Were Berg’s movements in Iraq being monitored by American intelligence? Why was he detained and on whose orders? Was he under surveillance after he was released on April 6? If he was, how did he come to be kidnapped in the centre of Baghdad?
Throughout this week, Berg’s father Michael has repeatedly denounced the Bush administration for complicity in his son’s death. He told Boston radio station WBUR on Tuesday: “[W]hat cost my son his life was the fact the US government saw fit to keep him in custody for 13 days without any of due process or civil rights and released him when they were good and ready. It goes further than Donald Rumsfeld. It’s the whole Patriot Act, it’s the whole feeling in this country that rights don’t matter any more because there are terrorists about. Well in my opinion ‘terrorist’ is just another word like ‘communist’ or ‘witch’ and it’s a witchhunt and this whole administration is just representing something that is not America.”
Yesterday, he told Philadelphia radio: “My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this.” He has also demanded to know whether “it is true that al-Qaeda offered to trade my son’s life for another person,” as is alleged in the video-tape statement of Nick Berg’s killers.
The issues being raised by Michael Berg point to the fact, that at best, the US authorities created the conditions in which his son could be kidnapped by extremists and killed.
The more disturbing possibility that arises from all the evidence that is known is that Berg’s disappearance and subsequent killing was the work of US agencies or pro-US Iraqi factions. One month after he disappeared, Berg was murdered at the most opportune moment for the US government.
Anyone who believes it is unthinkable or outrageous to suggest that the American government would sanction having one of its citizens murdered to shore up its fortunes is underestimating the political situation.
The Bush administration and elements of the American military hierarchy, media and corporate establishment are indictable war criminals. They ordered, directed, propagated or have profited from a criminal war, in flagrant violation of international law. The year since the US-led invasion of Iraq has been marked by further war crimes and atrocities. For significant sections of the American ruling class, everything depends upon preventing opposition to the occupation of Iraq within the American and international working class from developing into a conscious movement for political and social change. To them, the life of 26-year-old Nick Berg would have meant nothing.
Behind the demands for Rumsfeld to resign: White House prepares a fallback position to continue Iraq atrocities
[7 May 2004]
Marines pull back from Fallujah: a debacle for American imperialism
[4 May 2004]
Who benefits from the Karbala and Baghdad bombings?
[5 March 2004]
Iraq: A convenient letter from an Al Qaeda terrorist
[17 February 2004]
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Readers: The WSWS invites your comments. Please send e-mail.
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| 12 Mar 2004 @ 10:14, by ming. Violence, War|
Around 200 people dead from simultaneous terror bombings of commuter trains in Madrid.
Well, I normally am not of a mind to just mention bad news because it is "news". But I can mention a few things it brings up for me...
It is the next country over, so it doesn't have the same emotional impact for me personally as it would if it were in France, even in Paris. Or in Denmark or in Los Angeles, places that have been home for me. Somehow we will often compartmentalize things, so it somehow doesn't hit the same unless we consider it within "our" territory. Otherwise it feels like "over there", rather than "here".
It is always a tragedy when innocent people die violently and suddenly. But we have weird subjective ways of measuring it. It is the same kind of tragedy for the family and friends for every single person. But if 200 people died in a plane crash, it wouldn't register remotely the same way. Or if 50,000 people die in an earthquake in China, it is a bit unfathomable to try to relate to it, so it easily becomes just another news item. Or if 500,000 people die in Iraq from the side effects of a war carried out to protect oil interests, how do I respond to that? It is bad, but it easily just becomes an abstract number, rather than that number of personal tragedies.
But we're nevertheless surprisingly connected. So if even an apparently small number of people is involved in some dramatic event, we usually know somebody who knows somebody. In my French class this morning, several of the Spanish people present had friends or family members who were there in Madrid and who had been on the next train or the previous train and that kind of thing.
This particular event seems to have a large emotional impact on Spain and on the rest of Europe. A mini 9-11 event. Something that shouldn't be possible. Something we didn't expect where we live. Something that makes us feel more vulnerable. And maybe angry at the perpetrators, even the first possible group identified as the likely perpetrators, whether they actually did it or not. Or maybe more compassionate and solidaric with each other.
My guess would be that this is more related to an apparent al-Qaeda related group, rather than the Basque separatist group ETA.
But I also believe that when deliberate well organized, well planned, and well financed events are carried out, one needs to look carefully at who it benefits. "Follow the money" is one variation of that. Or look at who actually wants the outcome that quite naturally follows from such an event. Which often gives totally different answers than those that follow from who's officially blamed. Did it further the cause of Bin Laden and al-Qaeda and the Taliban that 9-11 happened? No, they were just about bombed into oblivion. And the United States was turned into an oppressive police state with a strengthened military and the willingness to use it anywhere, with little justification, without any need for public support. The Iraq invasion, however, was a godsend for groups like al-Qaeda, who were supplied with another lawless territory to operate out of, and a lot of motivated new recruits, and a lot of easy targets. So, if you follow my logic here, 9-11 was most likely masterminded by folks who wanted to turn the United States into a much more tightly controlled society, and who wanted greatly increased power and resources given to military activities, with greatly lessened checks and balances. You can guess who that might be, but that it would be some guy in a tent in Afghanistan would be a bit farfetched. And the unilateral Iraq invasion was masterminded by folks who wanted to support increased terrorism and lawlessness in the world. And, sure, those might very well be the exact same people, as those objectives can dovetail into each other quite well. But those actions certainly wouldn't be carried out neither by people who want to free muslim areas from outside influences, nor people who want peace and safety and freedom for the common folks anywhere. Unless the planners were extremely mis-informed, uneducated, unprepared and bad at carrying out any objective at all in any organized way. Which I'm quite sure isn't the case.
So, as to Madrid, who's cause would this support? Certainly not the ETA, as everybody hates them now, and large resources now will be applied to wiping them out. No, it would support folks who would like Europe to catch up to the U.S. in terms of population control and general paranoia.
What to do? What regular people can do is at least to use the coming elections to remove the government leaders in their countries who are furthering that agenda by their actions and propaganda. So, say goodbye to Jose Maria Aznar and George W. Bush. More >
|18 Jan 2004 @ 18:19, by bkodish. Violence, War|
Thomas Friedman's NY Times Opinion Piece "War of Ideas, Part 4" (Sun. Jan. 18, 2004) where he calls for Israeli withdrawal from the disputed territories demonstrates this Middle East expert's ideologically-based ineptitude in understanding the basis of Arab animosity toward Israel and the Jews.
Jewish residents of the disputed territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza (collectively known as Yesha) remain for him "fanatical Jews" for their insistence on their legal right to live in the heart of the historic Jewish homeland. The ease with which Friedman equates these Jews and their supporters with the Palestinian Authority's suicide bombers indicates an appalling moral blindness.
Where does Friedman's demonization of the Jews of Yesha come from? More >
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