Thursday, July 20, 2017

Precision Destruction: America's Century of War So Far

Empire of Destruction: Precision Warfare? Don’t Make Me Laugh

by Tom Engelhardt - TomDispatch

July 20, 2017

You remember. It was supposed to be twenty-first-century war, American-style: precise beyond imagining; smart bombs; drones capable of taking out a carefully identified and tracked human being just about anywhere on Earth; special operations raids so pinpoint-accurate that they would represent a triumph of modern military science. Everything “networked.” It was to be a glorious dream of limited destruction combined with unlimited power and success. In reality, it would prove to be a nightmare of the first order.

If you want a single word to summarize American war-making in this last decade and a half, I would suggest rubble. It's been a painfully apt term since September 11, 2001. In addition, to catch the essence of such war in this century, two new words might be useful: rubblize and rubblization.

Let me explain what I mean.

In recent weeks, another major city in Iraq has officially been “liberated” (almost) from the militants of the Islamic State. However, the results of the U.S.-backed Iraqi military campaign to retake Mosul, that country’s second largest city, don’t fit any ordinary definition of triumph or victory. It began in October 2016 and, at nine months and counting, has been longer than the World War II battle of Stalingrad. Week after week, in street to street fighting, with U.S. airstrikes repeatedly called in on neighborhoods still filled with terrified Mosulites, unknown but potentially staggering numbers of civilians have died. More than a million people -- yes, you read that figure correctly -- were uprooted from their homes and major portions of the Western half of the city they fled, including its ancient historic sections, have been turned into rubble.

This should be the definition of victory as defeat, success as disaster. It’s also a pattern. It’s been the essential story of the American war on terror since, in the month after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush loosed American air power on Afghanistan. That first air campaign began what has increasingly come to look like the full-scale rubblization of significant parts of the Greater Middle East.

By not simply going after the crew who committed those attacks but deciding to take down the Taliban, occupy Afghanistan, and in 2003, invade Iraq, Bush's administration opened the proverbial can of worms in that vast region. An imperial urge to overthrow Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, who had once been Washington’s guy in the Middle East only to become its mortal enemy (and who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11), proved one of the fatal miscalculations of the imperial era.

So, too, did the deeply engrained fantasy of Bush administration officials that they controlled a high-tech, precision military that could project power in ways no other nation on the planet or in history ever had; a military that would be, in the president’s words, “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.” With Iraq occupied and garrisoned (Korea-style) for generations to come, his top officials assumed that they would take down fundamentalist Iran (sound familiar?) and other hostile regimes in the region, creating a Pax Americana there. (Hence, the particular irony of the present Iranian ascendancy in Iraq.) In the pursuit of such fantasies of global power, the Bush administration, in effect, punched a devastating hole in the oil heartlands of the Middle East. In the pungent imagery of Abu Mussa, head of the Arab League at the time, the U.S. chose to drive straight through “the gates of hell.”

Rubblizing the Greater Middle East

In the 15-plus years since 9/11, parts of an expanding swathe of the planet -- from Pakistan’s borderlands in South Asia to Libya in North Africa -- were catastrophically unsettled. Tiny groups of Islamic terrorists multiplied exponentially into both local and transnational organizations, spreading across the region with the help of American “precision” warfare and the anger it stirred among helpless civilian populations. States began to totter or fail. Countries essentially collapsed, loosing a tide of refugees on the world, as year after year, the U.S. military, its Special Operations forces, and the CIA were increasingly deployed in one fashion or another in one country after another.

Though in case after case the results were visibly disastrous, like so many addicts, the three post-9/11 administrations in Washington seemed incapable of drawing the obvious conclusions and instead continued to do more of the same (with modest adjustments of one sort of another). The results, unsurprisingly enough, were similarly disappointing or disastrous.

Despite the doubts about such a form of global warfare that candidate Trump raised during the 2016 election campaign, the process has only escalated in the first months of his presidency. Washington, it seems, just can’t help itself in its drive to pursue this version of war in all its grim imprecision to its increasingly imprecise but predictably destructive conclusions. Worse yet, if the leading military and political figures in Washington have their way, none of this may end in our lifetime. (In recent years, for example, the Pentagon and those who channel its thoughts have begun speaking of a “generational approach” or a “generational struggle” in Afghanistan.)

If anything, so many years after it was launched, the war on terror shows every sign of continuing to expand and rubble is increasingly the name of the game. Here’s a very partial tally sheet on the subject:

In addition to Mosul, a number of Iraq’s other major cities and towns -- including Ramadi and Fallujah -- have also been reduced to rubble. Across the border in Syria, where a brutal civil war has been raging for six years, numerous cities and towns from Homs to parts of Aleppo have essentially been destroyed. Raqqa, the “capital” of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, is now under siege. (American Special Operations forces are already reportedly active inside its breached walls, working with allied Kurdish and Syrian rebel forces.) It, too, will be “liberated” sooner or later -- that is to say, destroyed.

As in Mosul, Fallujah, and Ramadi, American planes have been striking ISIS positions in the urban heart of Raqqa and killing civilians, evidently in sizeable numbers, while rubblizing parts of the city. And such activities have in recent years only been spreading. In distant Libya, for instance, the city of Sirte is in ruins after a similar struggle involving local forces, American air power, and ISIS militants. In Yemen, for the last two years the Saudis have been conducting a never-ending air campaign (with American support), significantly aimed at the civilian population; they have, that is, been rubblizing that country, while paving the way for a devastating famine and a horrific cholera epidemic that can’t be checked, given the condition of that impoverished, embattled land.

Only recently, this sort of destruction has spread for the first time beyond the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa. In late May, on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, local Muslim rebels identified with ISIS took Marawi City. Since they moved in, much of its population of 200,000 has been displaced and almost two months later they still hold parts of the city, while engaged in Mosul-style urban warfare with the Filipino military (backed by U.S. Special Operations advisers). In the process, the area has reportedly suffered Mosul-style rubblization.

In most of these rubblized cities and the regions around them, even when “victory” is declared, worse yet is in sight. In Iraq, for instance, with the “caliphate” of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi now being dismantled, ISIS remains a genuinely threatening guerilla force, the Sunni and Shiite communities (including armed Shiite militias) show little sign of coming together, and in the north of the country the Kurds are threatening to declare an independent state. So fighting of various sorts is essentially guaranteed and the possibility of Iraq turning into a full-scale failed state or several devastated mini-states remains all too real, even as the Trump administration is reportedly pushing Congress for permission to construct and occupy new “temporary” military bases and other facilities in the country (and in neighboring Syria).

Worse yet, across the Greater Middle East, “reconstruction” is basically not even a concept. There’s simply no money for it. Oil prices remain deeply depressed and, from Libya and Yemen to Iraq and Syria, countries are either too poor or too divided to begin the reconstruction of much of anything. Nor -- and this is a given -- will Donald Trump’s America be launching the war-on-terror equivalent of a Marshall Plan for the region. And even if it did, the record of the post-9/11 years already shows that the highly militarized American version of “reconstruction” or “nation building” via crony warrior corporations in both Iraq and Afghanistan has been one of the great scams of our time. (More American taxpayer dollars have been poured into reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan alone than went into the whole of the Marshall Plan and it’s painfully obvious how effective that proved to be.)

Of course, as in Syria’s civil war, Washington is hardly responsible for all the destruction in the region. ISIS itself has been a remarkably destructive and brutal killing machine with its own impressive record of urban rubblization. And yet most of the destruction in the region was triggered, at least, by the militarized dreams and plans of the Bush administration, by its response to 9/11 (which ended up being something like Osama bin Laden’s dream scenario). Don’t forget that ISIS’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, was a creature of the American invasion and occupation of that country and that ISIS itself was essentially formed in an American military prison camp in that country where its future caliph was confined.

And in case you think any lessons have been learned from all of this, think again. In the first months of the Trump administration, the U.S. has essentially decided on a new mini-surge of troops and air power in Afghanistan; deployed for the first time the largest non-nuclear weapon in its arsenal there; promised the Saudis more support in their war in Yemen; has increased its air strikes and special operations activities in Somalia; is preparing for a new U.S. military presence in Libya; increased U.S. forces and eased the rules for air strikes in civilian areas of Iraq and elsewhere; and sent U.S. special operators and other personnel in rising numbers into both Iraq and Syria.

No matter the president, the ante only seems to go up when it comes to the "war on terror," a war of imprecision that has helped uproot record numbers of people on this planet, with the usual predictable results: the further spread of terror groups, the further destabilization of state structures, rising numbers of displaced and dead civilians, and the rubblization of expanding parts of the planet.

While no one would deny the destructive potential of great imperial powers historically, the American empire of destruction may be unique. At the height of its military strength in these years, it has been utterly incapable of translating that power advantage into anything but rubblization.

Living in the Rubble, a Short History of the Twenty-First Century

Let me speak personally here, since I live in the remarkably protected and peaceful heart of that empire of destruction and in the very city where it all began. What eternally puzzles me is the inability of those who run that imperial machinery to absorb what’s actually happened since 9/11 and draw any reasonable conclusions from it. After all, so much of what I’ve been describing seems, at this point, dismally predictable.

If anything, the “generational” nature of the war on terror and the way it became a permanent war of terror should by now seem too obvious for discussion. And yet, whatever he said on the campaign trail, President Trump promptly appointed to key positions the very generals who have long been immersed in fighting America’s wars across the Greater Middle East and are clearly ready to do more of the same. Why in the world anyone, even those generals, should imagine that such an approach could result in anything more “successful” is beyond me.

In many ways, rubblization has been at the heart of this whole process, starting with the 9/11 moment. After all, the very point of those attacks was to turn the symbols of American power -- the Pentagon (military power); the World Trade Center (financial power); and the Capitol or some other Washington edifice (political power, as the hijacked plane that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania was undoubtedly heading there) -- into so much rubble. In the process, thousands of innocent civilians were slaughtered.

In some ways, much of the rubblization of the Greater Middle East in recent years could be thought of as, however unconsciously, a campaign of vengeance for the horror and insult of the air assaults on that September morning in 2001, which pulverized the tallest towers of my hometown. Ever since, American war has, in a sense, involved paying Osama bin Laden back in kind, but on a staggering scale. In Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, a shocking but passing moment for Americans has become everyday life for whole populations and innocents have died in numbers that would add up to so many World Trade Centers piled atop each other.

The origins of TomDispatch, the website I run, also lie in the rubble. I was in New York City on that day. I experienced the shock of the attacks and the smell of those burning buildings. A friend of mine saw a hijacked plane hitting one of the towers and another biked into the smoke-filled area looking for his daughter. I went down to the site of the attacks with my own daughter within days and wandered the nearby streets, catching glimpses of those giant shards of destroyed buildings.

In the phrase of that moment, in the wake of 9/11, everything “changed” and, in a sense, indeed it did. I felt it. Who didn't? I noted the sense of fear rising nationally and the repetitious ceremonies across the country in which Americans hailed themselves as the planet’s most exceptional victims, survivors, and (in the future) victors. In those post-9/11 weeks, I became increasingly aware of how a growing sense of shock and a desire for vengeance among the populace was freeing Bush administration officials (who had for years been dreaming about making the “lone superpower” omnipotent in a historically unprecedented way) to act more or less as they wished.

As for myself, I was overcome by a sense that the period to follow would be the worst of my life, far worse than the Vietnam era (the last time I had been truly mobilized politically). And of one thing I was certain: things would not go well. I had an urge to do something, though no idea what.

In early October 2001, the Bush administration unleashed its air power on Afghanistan, a campaign that, in a sense, would never end but simply spread across the Greater Middle East. (By now, the U.S. has launched repeated air strikes in at least seven countries in the region.) At that moment, someone emailed me an article by Tamim Ansary, an Afghan who had been in the U.S. for years but had continued to follow events in his country of birth.

His piece, which appeared at the website Counterpunch, would prove prescient indeed, especially since it had been written in mid-September, just days after 9/11. At that moment, as Ansary noted, Americans were already threatening -- in a phrase adopted from the Vietnam War era -- to bomb Afghanistan “back to the Stone Age.” What purpose, he wondered, could possibly be served by such a bombing campaign since, as he put it, “new bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs”? As he pointed out, Afghanistan, then largely ruled by the grim Taliban, had essentially been turned into rubble years before in the proxy war the Soviets and Americans fought there until the Red Army limped home in defeat in 1989. The rubble that was already Afghanistan would only increase in the brutal civil war that followed. And in the years before 2001, little had been rebuilt. So, as Ansary made clear, the U.S. was about to launch its air power for the first time in the twenty-first century against a country with nothing, a country of ruins and in ruins.

From such an act he predicted disaster. And so it would be. At the time, something about that image of air strikes on rubble stunned me, in part because it felt both horrifying and true, in part because it seemed such an ominous signal of what might lie in our future, and in part because nothing like it could then be found in the mainstream news or in any kind of debate about how to respond to 9/11 (of which there was essentially none). Impulsively, I emailed his piece out with a note of my own to friends and relatives, something I had never done before. That, as it turned out, would be the start of what became an ever-expanding no-name listserv and, a little more than a year later, TomDispatch.

A Plutocracy of the Rubble?

So the first word to fully catch my attention and set me in motion in the post-9/11 era was “rubble.” It’s sad that, almost 16 years later, Americans are still obsessively afraid for themselves, a fear that has helped fund and build a national security state of staggering dimensions. On the other hand, remarkably few of us have any sense of the endless 9/11-style experiences our military has so imprecisely delivered to the world. The bombs may be smart, but the acts couldn’t be dumber.

In this country, there is essentially no sense of responsibility for the spread of terrorism, the crumbling of states, the destruction of lives and livelihoods, the tidal flow of refugees, and the rubblization of some of the planet’s great cities. There’s no reasonable assessment of the true nature and effects of American warfare abroad: its imprecision, its idiocy, its destructiveness. In this peaceful land, it’s hard to imagine the true impact of the imprecision of war, American-style. Given the way things are going, it’s easy enough, however, to imagine the scenario of Tamim Ansari writ large in the Trump years and those to follow: Americans continuing to bomb the rubble they had such a hand in creating across the Greater Middle East.

And yet distant imperial wars do have a way of coming home, and not just in the form of new surveillance techniques, or drones flying over “the homeland,” or the full-scale militarization of police forces. Without those disastrous, never-ending wars, I suspect that the election of Donald Trump would have been unlikely. And while he will not loose such “precision” warfare on the homeland itself, his project (and that of the congressional Republicans) -- from health care to the environment -- is visibly aimed at rubblizing American society. If he were capable, he would certainly create a plutocracy of the rubble in a world where ruins are increasingly the norm.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: There’s no way I can thank you enough for your remarkable response to my recent summer appeal for funds to keep TomDispatch rolling along. You are simply the best! If any of you meant to send in a few dollars but forgot, check out our donation page. I’m 73 years old today and still going reasonably strong. That is, I suppose, a miracle of sorts. I’m planning to take the weekend off, so the next TD post will appear on Tuesday, July 25th. In the meantime, I’m expecting TomDispatch to accompany me not just into my 74th year, but my 75th as well thanks to the continuing generosity of all of you! Tom]

Copyright 2017 Tom Engelhardt

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Keeping Compassion Despite Overwhelming Challenges

Compassion Fatigue?

by Mazin Qumsiyeh -

July 18, 2017

Dear friends

Some days we are overwhelmed (compassion fatigue?) with things to do to respond to the humanitarian catastrophes and the geopolitical challenges we humans face. We care about many things because of mass communication, globalization, and the fact that all struggles are connected (the elites are after all connected in our oppression).

Just this week, here in Palestine we think of those ongoing tragedies that are connected:

-The continuing siege and starvation of 2 million people in Gaza (most of them refugees) with no electricity, hardly any water (which can’t be running due to lack of electricity to pump it etc)
-The siege and destruction of Arabs in Jerusalem: Israel took the flimsy excuse of the killing of two of its soldiers in the city to accelerate its long term plan of getting rid of Palestinians in the city to make it a Jewish city. Electronic checkpoints manned by occupation soldiers put for entry of Muslims to their Holy Site is unacceptable to all decent Muslims around the world. Like Jewish colonies and walls in Jerusalem this is also contrary to International law (4th Geneva convention) to alter the status quo of occupied territories. Colonial Jewish settlers are rejoicing at the prospect of unfettered access sans Muslim worshippers into the Muslim Holy site.

-The attack on UNESCO for following International law and not Zionist dreams of conquest. We need to support UNESCO.

-The human misery in Mosul, Iraq following its liberation by the Iraqi army from the US/Israel created Daesh (ISIS).

- The human misery in Syria inflicted by fighting militias (mercenaries) whether backed by Turkey, US, or Israel. The geopolitical game being waged there with players also includes Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel. People pay the price.

-The human misery inflicted on Yemen by the Saudi and UAE governments (also backed by the US and Israel).

-The environmental catastrophe (Nakba) that is happening all around us with so little action to fix it as the rich get richer while keeping us busy with the conflicts, tribalism, nationalism etc (the above are examples of distractions while they get richer). Yes, some days it can be overwhelming to deal with these things. Negative vibes start to creep in (dwelling on the challenges, seeing the cup half empty etc). In such days, I am glad to be surrounded by many young volunteers and staff working hard to light candles in this darkness. But I am also inspired by dedication of those who preceded us. I got a chance to visit the cemetery today due to a death in the family and I paid tribute to many of my relatives and many of my heroes from my town while remembering others in distant lands who preceded us to become dust and memories (e.g. Edward Said). It helps us get centered and to see that challenges are also opportunities. That we need incremental work. That this is a marathon not a sprint.That we are only small parts of a large struggle (humility). That the viciousness of attack on us is actually a sign of desperation on behalf of the elites living in their nice villas in Ramallah, Tel Aviv, and Washington DC. That we must go on with optimism of the will.

Let die? Ft. George Khoury, country director for the OCHA in Yemen: 

Most conflicts inflict similar kinds of hardship and despair on their victims, but even among this chronic suffering, the war in Yemen has its own distinct face. It is the face of a child emaciated by hunger. Does this child or the thousands of Yemeni children fighting off death stand a chance?

To discuss this, Oksana is joined by George Khoury, country director for the OCHA in Yemen:

Come visit us in occupied Palestine
And stay human

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
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The Steam Driving Trump's Military Machine: Netanyahu Pushes for Wider Wars

Netanyahu Pushes Trump Toward Wider Wars

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

July 18, 2017

Exclusive: Russia-gate is empowering Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to strong-arm President Trump into escalating the Syrian war by abandoning a recent cease-fire and challenging Iran and Russia, reports Robert Parry.

A weakened, even desperate President Donald Trump must decide whether to stand up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or to repudiate the Syrian partial ceasefire, which Trump hammered out with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 7.

Whether intentionally or not, this crossroads is where the months of Russia-gate hysteria have led the United States, making Trump even more vulnerable to Israeli and neoconservative pressure and making any cooperation with Russia more dangerous for him politically.

After meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Sunday, Netanyahu declared that Israel was totally opposed to the Trump-Putin cease-fire deal in southern Syria because it perpetuates Iranian presence in Syria in support of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. 

President places a prayer in-between the stone blocks 
of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017. 
(Official White House Photo by Dan Hansen)

Netanyahu’s position increases pressure on Trump to escalate U.S. military involvement in Syria and possibly move toward war against Iran and even Russia. The American neocons, who generally move in sync with Netanyahu’s wishes, already have as their list of current goals “regime changes” in Damascus, Tehran and Moscow – regardless of the dangers to the Middle East and indeed the world.

At the G-20 summit on July 7, Trump met for several hours with Putin coming away with an agreed-upon cease-fire for southwestern Syria, an accord that has proven more successful than previous efforts to reduce the violence that has torn the country apart since 2011.

But that limited peace could mean failure for the proxy war that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other regional players helped launch six years ago with the goal of removing Assad from power and shattering the so-called “Shiite crescent” from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut. Instead, that “crescent” appears more firmly in place, with Assad’s military bolstered by Shiite militia forces from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In other words, the “regime change” gambit against Assad’s government would have backfired, with Iranian and Hezbollah forces arrayed along Israel’s border with Syria. And instead of accepting that reversal and seeking some modus vivendi with Iran, Netanyahu and his Sunni-Arab allies (most notably the Saudi monarchy) have decided to go in the other direction (a wider war) and to bring President Trump along with them.

Neophyte Trump

Trump – a relative neophyte in global intrigue – has been slow to comprehend how his outreach to Netanyahu and Saudi King Salman runs counter to his collaboration with Putin on efforts to defeat the Sunni jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which have served as the point of the spear in the war to overthrow Assad.

Donald Trump touches lighted globe with Egyptian 
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman at opening of 
Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology 
on May 21, 2017. (Photo from Saudi TV)

Al Qaeda and Islamic State have received direct and indirect support from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Turkey, Israel and even the Obama administration, albeit sometimes unwittingly. To block Assad’s overthrow – and the likely victory by these terror groups – Russia, Iran and Hezbollah came to Assad’s defense, helping to turn the tide of the war since 2015.

In his nearly half year in office, Trump has maintained an open hostility toward Iran – sharing a position held by Washington’s neocons as well as Netanyahu and Salman – but the U.S. President also has advocated cooperation with Russia to crush Islamic State and Al Qaeda inside Syria.

Collaboration with Russia – and indirectly with Iran and the Syrian military – makes sense for most U.S. interests, i.e., stabilizing Syria, reversing the refugee flow that has destabilized Europe, and denying Al Qaeda and Islamic State a base for launching terror strikes against Western targets.

But the same collaboration would be a bitter defeat for Netanyahu and Salman who have invested heavily in this and other “regime change” projects that require major U.S. investments in terms of diplomacy, money and military manpower.

So, in last weekend’s trip to Paris, Netanyahu chose to raise the stakes on Trump at a time when Democrats and the U.S. mainstream media are pounding him daily with the Russia-gate scandal, even raising the possibility that his son, Donald Trump Jr., might be prosecuted and imprisoned for having a meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer.

If Trump wants the Russia-gate pain to lessen, he will be tempted to give Netanyahu what he wants and count on the savvy Israeli leader to intervene with the influential neocons of Official Washington to pull back on the scandal-mongering.

The problem, however, would be that Netanyahu really wants the U.S. military to complete the “regime change” project in Syria – much as it did in Iraq and Libya – meaning more American dead, more American treasure expended and a likely wider war, extending to Iran and possibly nuclear-armed Russia.

That might fulfill the neocon current menu of “regime change” schemes but it runs the risk of unleashing a nuclear conflagration on the world. In that way, liberals and even some progressives – who have embraced Russia-gate as a way to remove the hated Donald Trump from office – may end up contributing to the end of human civilization as well.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Monday, July 17, 2017

Surfin' the Racist Tide: Omar Khadr and Canada's Ugly Secrets

Omar Khadr forced to surf wave of Canadian racism

by Matthew Behrens - Rabble

July 17, 2017

In an unfortunate bit of timing, Canadian torture survivor Omar Khadr has been forced to surf the wild wave of Canadian racism and white fragility that marks so much of the gloating Canada 150 party.

Photo: Khadr family/Wikimedia Commons

Indeed, while the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the sesquicentennial were ostensibly designed to create a space where diverse voices would be heard and celebrated (although only at a surface level), ultimate control of the message was directed by an unspoken but obvious white supremacy.

Just days before the confidential Khadr settlement was leaked to the media -- no doubt by those very agencies responsible for his demonization and torture, from the Justice Department and Global Affairs to state security agencies CSIS and the RCMP -- armed agents of an "acceptable" Canada 150 message were arresting Indigenous people attempting to erect a teepee and conduct sacred ceremonies on the unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin territory that is illegally occupied by Parliament Hill.

Just as Indigenous people continue to be subjected to the ongoing continuum of racism that has always criminalized their ceremonies (more appeared in court last week in Labrador facing criminal charges for conducting sacred ceremonies at the dreadful Muskrat Falls project), Muslims in this country continue to face similar criminalization. They also face shadowy extralegal procedures that leave them in the limbo world of no-fly lists, incessant coercion to spy on their community, sudden closure of their bank accounts, listing of their charities as terrorist entities, infiltration of their mosques, indefinite detention, and deportation to torture. And that's all before one factors in the newly legalized criminal acts authorized under C-51 that provide state security agencies free reign to abuse the human rights of anyone they deem suspect.

Indeed, C-51 was designed in part to address feelings of white fragility and its close cousin, spy fragility. Behind the thick walls of the bunkers of Canada's secretive state security agencies there lies a deep resentment of any effort to name their acts of complicity in torture as violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The powerful, secretive bodies whose agents have consistently violated the rights of a long list of individuals and communities -- including Omar Khadr -- have long hated Canadian courts to the point where they've named themselves victims of a "judicial jihad" whenever said courts have noted that the actions of CSIS and the RCMP, among others, have violated rights.

Former CSIS director Jim Judd openly complained that secret trial detainees who had been held for years without charge on secret allegations the detainees were never allowed to see were being turned into "folk heroes" because thousands of Canadians were demanding due process for them. In the course of making those demands, many got to know the detainees and their families not as sketchy black and white passport photos in newspaper clippings, but as real human beings who loved and are loved. Hearing those real cries of pain -- from years in solitary confinement, never being allowed to hug one's children, the horror of not knowing why one was being held, the threat of deportation to torture -- made these detainees very human at a time when CSIS needed them to be terrorist objects to be feared and segregated from civil society.

And so it was and remains with Omar Khadr and members of his family as well, the number 1 punching bag for homegrown Islamophobia. They are painted with the brush of "Super Muslim," these all-powerful creatures with a thirst for terror so strong that they will overcome any obstacles to create chaos.

It's the same as the creation of the old Red Communist bogeyman (although in the latter instance, there were more anti-Semitic overtones), the Japanese saboteur syndrome (or have we forgotten the concentration camps Canada created during the Second World War?), and any number of other enemies-du-jour throughout this nation's history.

Khadr's family and any Muslims who ever met them have suffered the same fate of being demonized -- called terrorists, jailed indefinitely, and threatened with deportation to torture. Indeed, in almost all the secret trial security certificate cases, even having a brief chat with a member of the Khadr family while at a mosque, or having an obligatory social tea, was enough to go into one's surveillance file and become part of the basis for plans to deport them to torture.

Here is where the shield of white privilege enters the picture. As someone who has worked with many of the Muslims in Canada who have fallen under the targeting scopes of state security agencies, I have met most members of the Khadr family. I have driven in vehicles with some of them, gone to their home, and spoken on the phone with them (my own CSIS file, still unreleased to me for reasons of national security confidentiality, will no doubt confirm this). Yet because of the remarkable privilege my white pigmentation allows me, I have never suffered judicial sanction for doing these things. But other Muslims with whom I have worked and who did the exact same things with the Khadrs -- in fact, far less than I did -- have landed in jail for years. Guilt via alleged association with someone who is pinned with our worst fears is a potent, deadly phenomenon.

Liberal racism

In this context, the Liberal face of Canadian racism is trying its best to have it both ways. They want to co-opt and dampen down the anger at centuries of racist oppression by "acknowledging" that "certain things" that they refer to as "mistakes" and "regrettable errors" undertaken by "well-meaning" folks took place "in the past." The strategy is very clear: it deflects from the fact that such policies were not mistakes at all, but rather very clearly stated genocidal goals of governments trying to eliminate all Indigenous presence, for example, or seeking to keep Canada a "white man's land" by shuttering the door to immigration from anywhere but white Europe. The Liberals also hope that by quietly apologizing for torture that took place under the watch of Jean Chr├ętien and Paul Martin, they can also divert attention from their torture-enabling C-51, supported in opposition and now defended in power.

The Liberal approach also fails to address the fact that such deeply rooted racism -- stitched into every thread of the Maple Leaf -- is not an "unfortunate" thing of the past but, in fact, continues to underlie much of Canadian society.

By making it sound like they're listening, caring and understanding, it also buys the Liberals a certain "credibility" and, they hope, prevents the kinds of empowering direct-action organizing by targeted communities that is needed to confront such crimes. Hence, Trudeau speaks of his love of Muslims, but the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act that he supported while in opposition (and which is clearly aimed at Muslims) remains on the books, unrepealed. Trudeau says refugees are welcome here, but he refuses to lift the Safe Third Country agreement that is killing and disabling refugees struggling to make it across the border.

In this pathologically derailing approach to reality, Trudeau spoke of "senseless violence" when a mass casualty terrorist act was committed against worshippers earlier this year in a Quebec mosque. This depoliticized the act and made it the work of a "mad" or "sick" individual instead of the logical outcome of an Islamophobic hysteria that Trudeau himself contributed to.

And so it was that as Trudeau took the stage for Canada 150 with his carefully choreographed multicultural message (we love your food, we love your dances, but we don't like it when you criticize our racism and our capitalism!), the guardians of smug white supremacy found it unacceptable to include any notion that such racist policies continue to serve as a basis for contemporary policy and discourse (especially regarding Indigenous people, refugees and immigrants, Muslims, anti-Black racism, and the targeting of specific communities under repressive laws like C-51).

Indeed, the only ones accompanying Justin Trudeau on the Canada 150 stage were individuals who represented the armed agents of colonial violence who have trespassed everywhere from Turtle Island Indigenous territories to the illegal invasion and occupation of Afghanistan: the RCMP and the Canadian military. The message could not have been more clear: Tearduct Trudeau will fill your ears with wonderful, saccharine platitudes, but if any of you get out of line, our ceremonial soldiers will kick your derriere all the way to the penitentiary and the torture chamber.

It is within this very toxic stew of white fragility -- well represented by the howls of white outrage when a CBC reporter was famously and justifiably called out for being disrespectful to Indigenous women -- that Omar Khadr's name continues to be kicked around by far too many people who know precious little both about the traumatic life he has endured and the cloud that will unfortunately always hang over his head.

Khadr has always been subjected to a continuum of xenophobic loathing and Muslim hatred that prevents people from seeing him as a human being who has suffered unimaginable acts and spent more than half of his life behind bars for an alleged act that the record shows he could not have committed. In our ahistorical culture, we forget that Khadr was in one of a group of earthen residential structures in Afghanistan that was attacked for hours with cannon fire, bullets and 500-lb bombs. (Imagine what 500-lb bombs would do to your home built of concrete or steel, and recall that Khadr was in an earthen hut).

When American soldiers found him buried in the rubble, with severe wounds threatening his life, this was not the Super Muslim that he has always been made out to be, but rather a traumatized 15-year-old kid who was just beginning his long nightmare of indefinite detention and torture. After being sent to the torture centre at Bagram (which early on was recognized as one of the worst dungeons on the planet), he was transferred to Guantanamo, the home, according to U.S. officials, of "the worst of the worst."

Of course, that too was a lie, and of the over 700 original occupants of Gitmo, 41 remain, still held without charge on dubious grounds. Khadr himself is blamed for wanting to get out of that torture centre as well, agreeing to plead guilty under a military tribunal process that resembled a medieval kangaroo court (without which he might still be there). Canada's Supreme Court has recognized what happened to Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay as torture, and that Canadian officials were complicit in that torture. The acts of those officials -- which violated Khadr's rights -- are now more or less legalized by C-51, and Trudeau refuses to repeal them.

The impossible lightness of apology

The apology to Khadr itself was a bit of obfuscatory nonsense that distanced Canadian officials from their role in his torture and their utter failure to stand up for his rights while he was detained at the torture centres. Similar to the almost non-apology issued to other Canadians tortured with the complicity of their own government -- Abdullah Almalki, Maher Arar, Ahmad Abou Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin -- this one briefly declared "we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to his ordeal abroad and any resulting harm."

What were very specific actions of Canadian officials get reduced in the apology to a matter of supposition: what "may" have occurred as opposed to what "did" occur. While there are legal reasons for using such language, there are also political ones. Many Canadians still are unwilling to acknowledge that the actions of Canadian government officials are no different than those of the Americans or British in the so-called war on terror. We prefer to see anything wrong that's been done as part of an unfortunate past and not a present reality.

Needless to say, media coverage of the Khadr case continues to perpetuate the myths and lies that are told about him. The Liberals wrap their defence of the compensation around the flag of respecting Charter rights, and some pundits praise Canada by stating that when compensation is awarded even to the likes of Khadr -- again, unfairly putting him into that box of dubious company -- this shows Canadian respect for rule of law. Instead of allowing us to see Khadr the real person, this approach turns it back on the self-promoting greatness of white Canada and its generosity and goodness when it pulls a boo-boo. Hence, the largely white, powerful media, politicians, and state agents -- as well as the laws they create and selectively enforce depending on skin colour or religion -- become the focus, and not the very real suffering of Omar Khadr.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould claims that the lessons are clear: "Our rights are not subject to the whims of the government of the day, and there are serious costs when the government violates the rights of its citizens." While noble sounding, this is coming from a minister whose lawyers are fighting 165,000 Indigenous children in court. Those children are seeking -- but being denied -- the same rights as other children in this land, and their mistreatment has been labelled by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal as racially discriminatory. Despite four compliance orders to end that violation of their rights, the whims of the Liberal government are clear: this group will not enjoy the same rights as everyone else.

Nor will a bunch of other Canadians and refugees on this land enjoy the same rights as everyone else because those, too, are very much subject to the whims of this government.

The Liberal government has failed to bring home imprisoned Canadian Muslim Huseyin Celil, all the while boosting friendly ties with the country that continues to imprison him: China. There is a similar failure to bring home Canadian Bashir Makhtal, long jailed in Ethiopia. And then there's the refusal to have the prime minister meet with the family and supporters of wrongfully jailed Canadian Hassan Diab, held almost three years behind Paris prison walls despite being ordered released by French investigative judges on half a dozen occasions. All are victims of the whims of the Liberal government.

Then there's Ottawa's Mohamed Harkat, fighting deportation to torture in Algeria, and Mohammad Mahjoub of Toronto, fighting deportation to torture in Egypt. Both have suffered long-term detention and house arrest under secret trial security certificates for almost two decades, in large measure because of the same Islamophobia that demonizes the Khadrs.

Last month, a Federal Court judge reminded us how deeply Islamophobia runs in the judiciary. Mr. Mahjoub, for years subject to a humiliating regimen of house arrest and restrictive bail conditions, sought changes that would make his life less burdensome. In a decision that rejected those changes, the judge wrote that "CSIS no longer considers the Applicant a threat to national security, as well as the fact that CSIS has advised domestic and international agencies of this and requested they take appropriate action." Despite CSIS no longer recognizing Mahjoub as a threat (and the grounds for which he was deemed an alleged threat were pretty threadbare in the first place), the judge says, "[t]he evidence leads me to conclude not that [Mahjoub] has ceased to be a danger, but that the danger remains."

What explains that disconnect? It is similar to the findings of a recent poll that found 71 per cent of Canadians are not happy with the Khadr settlement (including large numbers of Liberals and NDP supporters). And yet "74 per cent of Canadians agree that when Khadr was captured by U.S. forces as a 15-year-old, he was a child soldier and should have been handled like one in the first place." So why the disconnect here? Once again, it seems the discriminatory lens of Islamophobia continues to dominate how most Canadians view this case. Shocked and white fragile NDP-ers have engaged in the "surely, not us!" line of reasoning, because when you're progressive, you just can't be racist, but every time members of the Mulcair team go on about "radicalization" (the euphemism for "bad Muslims"), they are contributing to the very Islamophobia they say they oppose.

The racism goes on

Unfortunately, the much-deserved compensation and apology for Omar Khadr is not the end of the story. Nothing has changed in the systems and structures that led to the torture of Omar Khadr. If anything, the Liberals and Conservatives have enabled such illegal behaviour with a slew of legislative changes. And much as state security agencies tout the importance of diversity, the presence of women, Muslims, and people without the privilege of white skin in these institutions will not end the misogyny and racism on which they are built and operate daily.

Indeed, the Toronto Star reported last week that a new lawsuit by five CSIS employees seeks $35 million in compensation for acts of Islamophobia, racism and homophobia. "Careful your Muslim in-laws don't behead you in your sleep for being homo," a CSIS manager allegedly wrote in a 2015 email to an intelligence officer, among the many allegations contained in the lawsuit. According to one female Muslim intelligence officer, "a director general asked her if she was frustrated being a second-generation Canadian Muslim. 'With tears in her eyes, Bahira listened to the Director General explain that he perceived security threats emanating from second- and third-generation Canadian Muslims -- clearly referring to her -- despite the fact that she was a CSIS Intelligence Officer and subject to the same rigorous security clearances as non-Muslim officers.'"

How do those of us with privilege address the unrelenting waves of Canadian racism in a manner that goes beyond the platitudes? In the excellent anthology Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal, Aaron Mills suggests that all of us need to explore and understand what it means to be in relationship with one another and that simply "making space" for certain voices is "woefully inadequate. Beyond making space for our voices, I want you to live as if what we say matters."

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. 'national security' profiling for many years.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Tom Secker, Garth Mullins, Janine Bandcroft July 19, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

July 19, 2017

Ubiquitous as camo at a BBQ, the militarization of popular culture is now so prevalent it's near invisible. Nowhere has the war drum beat more incessantly, and arguably more effectively molded public opinion, as at the movies.

Take a look at the mayhem playing this week in your town and the marshal presence is obvious, but the influence of the Pentagon and its A-lister cohorts in the acronym-ed intelligence agencies is by degrees more subtle, going far beyond the war flicks, first-person shooter adaptations, and super hero franchisees.

Listen. Hear.

Tom Secker is a UK-based private researcher, journalist, frequently featured commentator on security and intelligence issues, host of the popular podcast, ClandesTime, and principal behind, "the world’s premier online archive about government involvement in the entertainment industry."

He's also co-author, with Matthew Alford of the newly released book, 'National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood'.

Tom Secker in the first half.

And; in a tale Kafka would shrink from, the case of Canadian teenager, Omar Khadr resurfaced in the Canadian political and media consciousness recently. On it's face, the renewed interest in the fate of the former Guantanamo Bay inmate surrounds the recent settlement of millions in damages due, to be paid by Canada for the abrogation of its responsibility to protect Khadr's rights, and much worse, its collusion with the agents of his torture.

But the apoplexy expressed by, and grandstand political haymaking coming from, the conservative party and their fellow travellers in the press reveals a desperate attempt by the Tories to find purchase against a seemingly Teflon-coated, prime minister Justin Trudeau.

Garth Mullins is a long-time Vancouver-based DTES activist, writer, broadcaster, musician, and trade unionist whose weekly column appears at 24 Hours Vancouver, and a contributor to CBC Radio one’s program 'Ideas'. He's also been at the fore, working with VANDU, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, in responding to the city's overdose crisis.

Garth's recent article in 24 Hours Vancouver takes apart the prominently placed Tory "outrage" against the government's decision to settle rather than fight Khadr further, questioning the motives of both the party and the press.

Garth Mullins on Omar Khadr and Canada, the Torturer's Apprentice in the second half.

And; CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here with a Left Coast Events update at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with what's good going in and around here in the coming week.

But first, Tom Secker, raising a curtain on 'National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood'.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hollywood Making War and Mayhem Fun, Profitable, (and Politically Effective)

Documents Expose How Hollywood Promotes War on Behalf of the Pentagon, CIA and NSA

by Tom Secker & Matthew Alford - INSURGE INTELLIGENCE

Tom Secker and Matthew Alford report on their astonishing findings from trawling through thousands of new US military and intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents reveal for the first time the vast scale of US government control in Hollywood, including the ability to manipulate scripts or even prevent films too critical of the Pentagon from being made — not to mention influencing some of the most popular film franchises in recent years. This raises new questions not only about the way censorship works in the modern entertainment industry, but also about Hollywood’s little known role as a propaganda machine for the US national security apparatus.

When we first looked at the relationship between politics, film and television at the turn of the 21st century, we accepted the consensus opinion that a small office at the Pentagon had, on request, assisted the production of around 200 movies throughout the history of modern media, with minimal input on the scripts.

How ignorant we were.

More appropriately, how misled we had been.

We have recently acquired 4,000 new pages of documents from the Pentagon and CIA through the Freedom of Information Act. For us, these documents were the final nail in the coffin. These documents for the first time demonstrate that the US government has worked behind the scenes on over 800 major movies and more than 1,000 TV titles.

The previous best estimate, in a dry academic book way back in 2005, was that the Pentagon had worked on less than 600 films and an unspecified handful of television shows.

The CIA’s role was assumed to be just a dozen or so productions, until very good books by Tricia Jenkins and Simon Willmetts were published in 2016. But even then, they missed or underplayed important cases, including Charlie Wilson’s War and Meet the Parents.

Jon Voight in Transformers — in this scene, just after American troops have been attacked by a Decepticon robot, Pentagon Hollywood liaison Phil Strub inserted the line ‘Bring em home’, granting the military a protective, paternalistic quality, when in reality the DOD does quite the opposite.

Alongside the massive scale of these operations, our new book National Security Cinema details how US government involvement also includes script rewrites on some of the biggest and most popular films, including James Bond, the Transformers franchise, and movies from the Marvel and DC cinematic universes.

A similar influence is exerted over military-supported TV, which ranges from Hawaii Five-O to America’s Got Talent, Oprah and Jay Leno to Cupcake Wars, along with numerous documentaries by PBS, the History Channel and the BBC.

National Security Cinema also reveals how dozens of films and TV shows have been supported and influenced by the CIA, including the James Bond adventure Thunderball, the Tom Clancy thriller Patriot Games and more recent films, including Meet the Parents and Salt.

The CIA even helped to make an episode of Top Chef that was hosted at Langley, featuring then-CIA director Leon Panetta who was shown as having to skip dessert to attend to vital business. Was this scene real, or was it a dramatic statement for the cameras?

James Bond and Domino are rescued via a plane and skyhook that was loaned to the production by CIA front company Intermountain Aviation — Thunderball

The Military’s Political Censorship of Hollywood

When a writer or producer approaches the Pentagon and asks for access to military assets to help make their film, they have to submit their script to the entertainment liaison offices for vetting. Ultimately, the man with the final say is Phil Strub, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) chief Hollywood liaison.

If there are characters, action or dialogue that the DOD don’t approve of then the film-maker has to make changes to accommodate the military’s demands. If they refuse then the Pentagon packs up its toys and goes home. To obtain full cooperation the producers have to sign contracts — Production Assistance Agreements — which lock them into using a military-approved version of the script.

This can lead to arguments when actors and directors ad lib or improvise outside of this approved screenplay.

On set at Edwards Air Force base during the filming of Iron Man, there was an angry confrontation between Strub and director Jon Favreau.

Favreau wanted a military character to say the line, ‘People would kill themselves for the opportunities I have’, but Strub objected. Favreau argued that the line should remain in the film, and according to Strub:
‘He’s getting redder and redder in the face and I’m getting just as annoyed. It was pretty awkward and then he said, angrily, “Well how about they’d walk over hot coals?” I said “fine.” He was so surprised it was that easy.’

In the end, this compromised line did not appear in the finished film.

One of several scenes for Iron Man filmed at Edwards Air Force Base

It seems that any reference to military suicide — even an off-hand remark in a superhero action-comedy adventure — is something the DOD’s Hollywood office will not allow. It is understandably a sensitive and embarrassing topic for them, when during some periods of the ever-expanding and increasingly futile ‘War on Terror’, more US servicemen have killed themselves than have died in combat. But why shouldn’t a movie about a man who builds his own flying suit of armour not be able to include such jokes?

Another one-line quip that was censored by the DOD came in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.

When Bond is about to HALO jump out of a military transport plane they realise he’s going to land in Vietnamese waters. In the original script Bond’s CIA sidekick jokes ‘You know what will happen. It will be war, and maybe this time we’ll win.’

This line was removed at the request of the DOD.

Strangely, Phil Strub denied that there was any support for Tomorrow Never Dies, while the pre-eminent scholar in the field Lawrence Suid only lists the DOD connection under ‘Unacknowledged Cooperation’.

But the DOD are credited at the end of the film and we obtained a copy of the Production Assistance Agreement between the producers and the Pentagon.

The DOD-approved version of the HALO scene in Tomorrow Never Dies

Vietnam is evidently another sore topic for the US military, which also removed a reference to the war from the screenplay for Hulk (2003). While the military are not credited at the end of the film, on IMDB or in the DOD’s own database of supported movies, we acquired a dossier from the US Marine Corps detailing their ‘radical’ changes to the script.

This included making the laboratory where the Hulk is accidentally created into a non-military facility, making the director of the lab an ex-military character, and changing the code name of the military operation to capture the Hulk from ‘Ranch Hand’ to ‘Angry Man’.

‘Ranch Hand’ is the name of a real military operation that saw the US Air Force dump millions of gallons of pesticides and other poisons onto the Vietnamese countryside, rendering millions of acres of farmland poisoned and infertile.

They also removed dialogue referring to ‘all those boys, guinea pigs, dying from radiation, and germ warfare’, an apparent reference to covert military experiments on human subjects.

The documents we obtained further reveal that the Pentagon has the power to stop a film from being made by refusing or withdrawing support. Some movies such as Top Gun, Transformers and Act of Valor are so dependent on military cooperation that they couldn’t have been made without submitting to this process.

Others were not so lucky.

The movie Countermeasures was rejected by the military for several reasons, and consequently never produced. One of the reasons is that the script included references to the Iran-Contra scandal, and as Strub saw it ‘There’s no need for us to… remind the public of the Iran-Contra affair.’

Similarly Fields of Fire and Top Gun 2 were never made because they couldn’t obtain military support, again due to politically controversial aspects of the scripts.

This ‘soft’ censorship also affects TV. For example, a planned Louis Theroux documentary on Marine Corps recruit training was rejected, and as a result was never made.

It is impossible to know exactly how widespread this military censorship of entertainment is because many files are still being withheld. The majority of the documents we obtained are diary-like reports from the entertainment liaison offices, which rarely refer to script changes, and never in an explicit, detailed way. However, the documents do reveal that the DOD requires a preview screening of any project they support and sometimes makes changes even after a production has wrapped.

The documents also record the pro-active nature of the military’s operations in Hollywood and that they are finding ways to get involved during the earliest stages of development, ‘when characters and storylines are most easily shaped to the Army’s benefit.’

The DOD’s influence on popular culture can be found at all stages of production, granting them the same kind of power as major studio executives.

Agencywood: The CIA and NSA’s Influence on Movie Scripts

Despite having far fewer cinematic assets the CIA has also been able to wield considerable influence on some of the projects they have supported (or refused to support).

There is no formal CIA script review process but the Agency’s long-serving entertainment liaison officer Chase Brandon was able to insert himself into the early stages of the writing process on several TV and film productions.

The new recruits arrive at CIA training facility The Farm in The Recruit

Brandon did this most prominently on the spy thriller The Recruit, where a new agent is put through CIA training at The Farm — an obvious vehicle for inducting the audience into that world and giving them a glimpse behind the curtain. The original story treatment and early drafts of the script were written by Brandon, though he is only credited on the film as a technical advisor, covering up his influence on the content.

The Recruit includes lines about the new threats of the post-Soviet world (including that great villainous justification for a $600 billion defense budget, Peru), along with rebuttals of the idea that the CIA failed to prevent 9/11. And it repeats the adage that ‘the CIA’s failures are known, but its successes are not’. All of this helped to propagate the idea that the Agency is a benevolent, rational actor in a chaotic and dangerous world.

The CIA has also managed to censor scripts, removing or changing sequences that they didn’t want the public to see. On Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal ‘verbally shared’ his script with CIA officers, and they removed a scene where a drunk CIA officer fires an AK-47 into the air from a rooftop in Islamabad, and removed the use of dogs from the torture scenes.

In a very different kind of film, the hugely popular romantic comedy Meet the Parents, Brandon requested that they change a scene where Ben Stiller’s character discovers Robert De Niro’s (Stiller’s father-in-law to be) secret hideaway. In the original script Stiller finds CIA torture manuals on a desk, but Brandon changed that to photos of Robert De Niro with various dignitaries.

Ben Stiller discovers that Robert De Niro is working for the CIA — Meet the Parents

Indeed, the CIA’s ability to influence movie scripts goes back to their early years. In the 1940s and 50s they managed to prevent any mention of themselves appearing in film and TV until North by Northwest in 1959. This included rejecting requests for production support, meaning that some films were never made, and censoring all references to the CIA in the script for the Bob Hope comedy My Favourite Spy.

The CIA even sabotaged a planned series of documentaries about their predecessor, the OSS, by having assets at CBS develop a rival production to muscle the smaller studio out of the market. Once this was achieved, the Agency pulled the plug on the CBS series too, ensuring that the activities of the OSS remained safe from public scrutiny.

While very little is known about the NSA’s activities in the entertainment industry we did find indications that they are adopting similar tactics to the CIA and DOD.

Internal NSA emails show that the producers of Enemy of the State were invited on multiple tours of NSA headquarters. When they used a helicopter to film aerial footage of Fort Meade, the NSA did not prevent them from using it in the movie.

According to a 1998 interview with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, they changed the script at the NSA’s request so that the wrongdoings were the actions of one bad apple NSA official, and not the agency in general.

Bruckheimer said:

‘I think the NSA people will be pleased. They certainly won’t come out as bad as they could have. NSA’s not the villain.’

This idea of using cinema to pin the blame for problems on isolated rogue agents or bad apples, thus avoiding any notion of systemic, institutional or criminal responsibility, is right out of the CIA/DOD’s playbook.

NSA headquarters at Fort Meade — Enemy of the State

In all, we are looking at a vast, militarised propaganda apparatus operating throughout the screen entertainment industry in the United States.

It is not quite an official censor, since decisions on scripts are made voluntarily by producers, but it represents a major and scarcely acknowledged pressure on the kind of narratives and images we see on the big and small screens.

In societies already eager to use our hard power overseas, the shaping of our popular culture to promote a pro-war mindset must be taken seriously.

Tom Secker and Matthew Alford are co-authors of the new book, National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood.

Secker is a British-based writer who covers the security services, Hollywood and the history of terrorism. He runs the SpyCulture blog which can be supported via His work has been covered by The Mirror, The Express, Salon, TechDirt and elsewhere.

Dr Alford is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Politics, Language and International Studies at the University of Bath. His documentary film based on his research, The Writer with No Hands, was premiered in 2014 at Hot Docs, Toronto and won runner-up at the Ammar Popular Film Festival, Tehran.

INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project for people and planet. Support INSURGE to keep digging where others fear to tread.

Gaza's Crisis Fatigue

Gaza Crisis, Global Silence


July 15, 2017

The Gaza Strip recently entered its 11th year under an Israeli siege. In 2012, the World Health Organization warned Gaza will be unlivable by 2020, but now the UN says living conditions in Gaza has worsened faster than anticipated.

After 10 years of Israeli siege, the UN warns Gaza is becoming 'unlivable.' Ali Abunimah of The Electronic Intifada says Israel, with the Palestinian Authority's help, is responsible for the crisis, as most of the world looks on in silence.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Moving Beyond Israeli: NDP Candidate Challenges Canada's Political Default Position

NDP Leadership Candidate Niki Ashton Supports Palestinian Rights

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

July 14th, 2017

Sometimes silence in politics speaks louder than words.

Israel lobby groups’ response (or lack thereof) to NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton’s recent support of Palestinian rights suggests they believe previous criticisms backfired.

Two months ago B’nai B’rith attacked Ashton for attending a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and a subsequent Facebook post commemorating the Nakba, which saw 750,000 Palestinians driven from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947/’48. The self-declared ‘human rights’ organization published a press release titled “B’nai Brith Denounces MP Niki Ashton for Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists.” Rather than harming Ashton, the attack solidified support amongst the Left and youth within the party. B’nai B’rith’s smear generated significant media attention, but Ashton refused to back down.

In response the Manitoba MP told the Winnipeg Free Press she felt obligated to “speak out in the face of injustice” and “I have consistently spoken out for peace and justice in the Middle East, including for Palestinians.”

A few days after accusing her of “Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists” B’nai B’rith CEO Michael Mostyn took another shot at Ashton. Clearly writing to the Toronto Sun’s editors and his own organization’s donors, Mostyn linked Ashton’s position on Palestine to sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement, which most NDP members probably support. On top of this own-goal, Mostyn opened the door for a rejoinder by the president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. In his response Thomas Woodley described Ashton’s promotion of the Palestinian cause as an outgrowth of her “support for indigenous rights in Canada” — for every NDP member Mostyn swayed against Ashton I’d bet Woodley convinced fifty to favour her.

Since the dust-up at the end of May, B’nai B’rith – and other Israeli nationalist groups – have remained silent regarding Ashton. Yet when asked a question about Martin Luther King during an official party leadership debate six weeks ago Ashton went out of her way to link those campaigning for Palestinian rights to the US civil rights leader. Then, in a widely circulated FightBack interview at the end of June Ashton decried the NDP’s purge of pro-Palestinian candidates in the 2015 federal election campaign as “totally unacceptable”. She also called “justice for Palestine … a key issue” and referenced “the Nakba”.

Last week Ashton was part of a fundraiser in London, Ontario, put on by five prominent Palestinian solidarity activists, while this week she put out an appeal for individuals to join the party titled “End the Gaza Blockade”. It stated:

Today marks three years since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day Israeli military offensive on Gaza. … Ashton has demonstrated that she will show leadership and will never hesitate when standing up for Palestinians.

In the past B’nai B’rith has labeled lesser transgressions “support for terrorism” or “anti-Semitism”. Their silence on Ashton’s recent moves is deafening. B’nai B’rith is effectively conceding that their previous attacks backfired and they now fear drawing further attention to Ashton’s position since it would likely strengthen her standing among those voting for the next NDP leader.

According to a February poll of 1,000 Canadians, most progressive Canadians back Palestinian rights. Eighty-four percent of NDP supporters said they were open to sanctioning Israel, when they were asked in the context of the UN Security Council denouncing settlement building in the West Bank: “Do you believe that some sort of Canadian government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable?”

While somewhat of a long shot at the start of the race, Ashton now has a reasonable chance of becoming leader of the NDP. According to a July 5 Mainstreet poll of 1,445 party members, 22.6 per cent of those asked supported Charlie Angus as their first choice candidate while 20.4 per cent backed Ashton. 7.5 per cent chose both Jagmeet Singh and Peter Julian (who has since dropped out of the race) as their top choice and 6.1 per cent went for Guy Caron while 35.9 percent had not made up their minds. Ashton is far and away the favourite among NDP millennials.

The first ever pregnant major party leadership candidate in Canadian political history has gained this support by speaking truth to power and taking a principled position on an issue most politicians have shied away from. And, she has demonstrated that the purpose of Israeli nationalist attacks is to silence them, not to have a debate. In fact, real debate is what organizations like B’nai B’rith fear the most because the more people know about Israel and the Occupied Territories, the more they support the Palestinian cause.

The prospect of the NDP electing a leader taking explicitly pro-Palestinian positions obviously concerns B’nai B’rith. But, their bigger worry should be the growing number of progressives who consider Israel lobby attacks a mark in favour of a politician.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation. Read other articles by Yves.

Russia: Answering Western Propagandists

Lavrov Gives Quick History Lesson to Journalist Who Suggests Russia Has Violated NATO's Trust

by Russia Insider

July 14, 2017
Russia's Foreign Minister gives misinformed journalist an earful

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov regularly crosses swords with journalists, television pundits and other parasites. It's never a fair fight—but is that really Lavrov's fault? Nein.

What we find so endearing about Sergey is that he's not your typical diplomat who mutters something incoherent and then pulls the fire alarm when confronted with an obnoxious question. Lavrov knows how to throw down. And the results are always devastating and highly educational.

This was certainly the case yesterday in Berlin, where Lavrov answered media questions about Russia's relationship with Europe.

One journalist in particular had a creative suggestion: Maybe Russia could cancel its upcoming military exercises with Belarus in order to restore mutual trust with NATO?

Buckle up, because Sergey Lavrov is about to give you a crash course in "mutual trust" between Russia and NATO:

Question: Russia-NATO relations are complicated. Both sides are accusing each other of provocations. There is talk of Europe’s remilitarisation. Russia is planning to hold large-scale military manoeuvres with Belarus, West 2017, in September. Maybe it should cancel or postpone these exercises so as to restore mutual trust?

Sergey Lavrov: Discussions of the scale of military exercises, confidence-building measures and efforts to reduce mutual suspicion are only possible on the basis of cooperation. On August 8, 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, Mikheil Saakashvili’s Georgia attacked South Ossetia. Russia, which had a peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia under an OSCE mandate, called for holding an extraordinary meeting of the Russia-NATO Council. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected the call and said that the council would be suspended, that its doors were closed to Russia, and that they will not talk with us. Everyone admitted in late 2008 that it was the wrong decision to make. It was decided that the Russia-NATO Council must work under any conditions and that it was especially important during a time of crisis.

The same mistake was made again after the developments in Kiev’s Maidan. The West suspended cooperation and contacts within the Russia-NATO Council. We had several joint programmes, including on the joint fight against terrorism. Russia, Germany and France were working on the STANDEX programme to create the technology for stand-off detection of explosives at the entrance to public places. It was a unique project, but it has been suspended. Our cooperation in Afghanistan was put on ice as well. Attempts have been made to revitalise the council. I believe that ambassadorial-level talks are scheduled to take place today.

We know how preparations for meetings with Russia are discussed at NATO. The predominant feature is not a desire to hold business-like discussions or to search for ways to reduce tension and normalise relations, but as a desire of the Russia-hating minority who call for punishing Russia for what is happening in Ukraine, which they describe as unacceptable aggression, annexation and occupation. If this is what they want to use the Russia-NATO Council for, then we need not attend its meetings. We will see whether common sense will prevail over the anti-Russia choir at the meeting that will be held today.

advertisement We definitely do not want to increase tension in Europe. But we know that the bloc’s military infrastructure is being deployed on our border. Canada, Germany and the UK are doing this in the Baltics and the United States in Poland, and this involves the delivery of a huge number of heavy weapons. What matters is not that they are only sending one battalion each or that they say we should not worry. This situation involves certain symbols and makes us think about historical analogies.

A year ago, President of Finland Sauli Niinisto proposed that Russian and NATO planes fly with their transponders operating. Finland, although it is not a NATO member, wants to see a tranquil situation in the Baltic Sea area. We put the idea on paper, added a few more details and presented this initiative at the Russia-NATO Council a year ago. But things are not moving. NATO, which keeps talking about reducing tension and coming to agreements, are not enthusiastic about this idea. Russia has been accused of violating agreements, while we say that NATO is building up its strength and has advanced far beyond the limits that are set out in the Russia-NATO Founding Act. We have called for our military personnel to meet within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council to show on the map where each country concerned has its forces in Europe. This will allow us to compare our potentials and to deal with this issue professionally rather than engage in doubletalk.

It is very important to resume the analysis and comparison of our military doctrines, which NATO has suspended as well. It has been shelved. We are open for cooperation and ready to resume this work. But are our partners ready as well? We will not cajole them into resuming negotiations. Everyone must decide for themselves.