Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Heard on the radio

Wow. Last night listened to crotchety old man Harold Bloom on npr about the decline of the humanities. Translation: people study books and poetry that he doesn’t like. However, if like me you like literary criticism and you have the stomach for listening to him (he is quite amusing actually) then here is the link.

On to this morning where on npr they featured a story about moving the Guantanamo Bay prisoners to an Illinois prison. How do they begin this interesting feature? By interviewing a woman whose son fought in the Iraq war. After she tells us about the sacrifices her family has made, she says that bringing terrorists to America is like a direct slap in the face to soldiers like her son.

Excuse me? Did someone at npr think that interviewing an intellectually challenged woman about completely unrelated topics would have anything to add to the discussion? In what real world is harboring prisoners a direct slap in the face to soldiers. How is it that this would a slap in the face merely because it’s in America? I just don’t get npr anymore. None of it makes any sense.

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In the Loop

I saw In the Loop last night and I can’t recommend it enough. The film is an offshoot of the British television series “The Thick of It” which I have only seen a couple of episodes of. The series and film have a sort of docu-drama feel although the actors don’t confront the camera at any time and you don’t get the idea that what they are saying is made for public consumption, but it has the shaky camera the quick cuts that are normal in such films.

The premise is to take the events that led up to the UN Resolution to attack Iraq and to show them through lower level cabinet officials of both the British and the American governments. What’s fascinating about this film is that each major point is fact. We know that the British supported America in their endeavor to declare war on Iraq. We know that the reasons were inexplicable to a large percentage of the British and American public. Tony Blair’s inexplicable unconditional support of the Bush Administration led many to characterize Blair as being the lap dog of the Americans. We know that British intelligence was used by the Bush Administration as justification to the war. We know that opposition was squashed despite very serious reservations about the quality of such intelligence.

So in this film, we see a fictionalized account of how all of the above came to be. The characters are fictional, but again I think the major points of the film are accurate. The film is funny. Depressing. How can so many people put their careers above the common good in such a callous way? It’s hard to swallow. The dialogue is great though I think the dialogue of the American characters is somewhat off. I think Americans are more likely to smile to your face and tell you what you want to hear than stab you in the back, so I guess what I’m saying is the Americans talk a little bit too much like the Brits. The Brits swear with such foul relish. It’s poetry really and very clever. And very funny. But not so American which is why it sounds odd when the American characters do it. I suppose we’ve heard of politicians like Cheney throwing fuck yous out there, but that’s not really so clever and funny. Just foul.

I loved Peter Capaldi’s performance. Just like on the television series he is fantastic. I wasn’t so taken with James Gandolfini but again I think that’s because the words coming out of his mouth just didn’t quite sound right. A little too British and not so American. It’s certainly an uncomfortable film to watch at times because the humor is so incredibly dark. This is an incredibly dark subject and very smartly done. The next day I’m still thinking of what a tragic clusterfuck this all was.

Update: I’ve just been looking on google for what other clips they show of this film. Ignore all the trailer clips. The film’s charm is the swearing which sadly is not included in any trailer.
I enjoyed the crossest man in Scotland: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa3eoMnMC80”

And the Steve Coogan clip: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5kdOvsyv98”

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There’s the popular adage that those who never learn from history are destined to repeat it. But that’s really all it is. An adage. Something to put on a t-shirt, but certainly not something to practice apparantly.

I was listening to NPR yesterday and I heard Bob Edwards Robert Siegel interview Errol Morris the filmmaker of The Fog of War featuring Robert McNamara. As you may know McNamara, considered the architect of the Vietnam War, died yesterday. At two points in this interview Morris brings up what an interesting time it was making a film about learning lessons from war with Robert McNamara and have the Iraq War happen simultaneously. Twice, Bob Edwards Robert Siegel ignored Morris’ comments and moved on to perhaps more comfortable topics safely residing in far away history. Like the Cuban Missile Crisis. God forbid we compare what happened in Vietnam to a current event. Here’s the transcript:

Morris: To him it was an ongoing investigation trying to figure out what had gone wrong, what he had been thinking and moreover how we could learn lessons from history and perhaps prevent the same things from happening all over again. Very very sad because the same things were happening all over again.

Siegel: In Iraq, your saying?

Errol Morris: Yes.

Siegel: I want to play something that McNamara told you in the documentary about working in World War II…

Opportunity lost. Then at the end of the interview, this bombshell happens.

Morris: Another fantastically interesting story that I heard from this man. Why didn’t he speak out? Here’s another question for you, why didn’t he speak out against the Iraq war when he expressed to me on so many occasions his opposition to what was happening.

Siegel: Errol Morris, filmmaker. Thank you very much for talking to us.

I don’t know about you, but I too find that extremely fascinating. What, you say? Robert McNamara was making a film about learning lessons from his experience in the Vietnam War, found correlation with the Iraq war and never said anything either while making the film or elsewhere on record about his opinion. What, you say Errol? Tell me more about that! I want to hear more about his opinion on that.

Sadly we get nothing from Siegel. Like I said, learning from history is something you put on a t-shirt. Something you tell a classroom full of children. Just like those signs outside the holocaust museum: “Never again.” But genocide does happen again and again and again and we do nothing. And we willfully ignore history. I swear I heard a chuckle from Morris at the end of the interview at the ridiculousness of it all.

Update: I may have confused Bob Edwards with Robert Siegel. While I listened to the interview last night on the radio, the segment posted online did not have an introduction of the interviewer. After looking at the hosts for All Things Considered, I’m willing to make the change to my post without confirmation of the speaker to Robert Siegel because I’m thinking that the interviewer is most likely Robert Siegel.

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It’s interesting how photographs create history. We’ve all seen the Ken Burns’ affect in countless documentaries, but what if the photographs are deliberately misleading? Will anyone remember and revise the historical record?

My sister brought this story to my attention. A Japanese-American battalion liberated the concentration camp of Dachau during World War II but no photographic evidence exists. How do you explain to the American people that the liberators of a concentration camp look just like the enemy you are fighting in the East? You don’t. You instead pretend it never happened.

A new book entitled “Dachau, Holocaust and US Samurais – Nisei Soldiers first in Dachau” by Pierre Moulin tells the story of “the role played by very special liberators coming from 10 Concentration camps in USA: The US Samurais of the 522nd Field Artillery BN who were the first to reach the camp of Dachau.” However, the U.S. Army does not recognize any Japanese-American soldiers as the liberators of Dachau.

The photo above, which purportedly shows the liberation of Dachau by the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 100th Division, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, is from this web site: http://www.hirasaki.home.att.net. This photo was obviously not taken at the main Dachau camp, and it was not taken on April 29, 1945 when Dachau was liberated, judging by the amount of snow on the ground. The photo appears to have been taken after May 1, 1945 when it snowed in the Dachau area. One prisoner is holding a bed roll which indicates that these prisoners were on a march out of the main camp when they were discovered by Japanese troops, probably on May 2, 1945.

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I have to say I’m really enjoying watching Jean Gabin movies. Thus far, we haven’t seen a bad film. Sure there are some we like more than others but they’re all pretty good. The exception might be Golgotha which we found out was dubbed and promptly ejected it.

Here he is in La Bandera. You know, movies were so much more topically varied back then (1935.) I mean can you imagine a writer pitching this story to a studio executive today: “This is going to be a great movie. It’s about this guy who has to leave France because of a dark secret and he ends up in Spain and he joins the Spanish Foreign Legion. He later goes to a bar called ‘Flat Chests.’ The people will love it.”

I nonetheless enjoyed this film.

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Oh, it will make you angry.

There are several dimensions to the debate over the U.S. prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba that the media have largely missed and, thus, of which the American people are almost completely unaware. For that matter, few within the government who were not directly involved are aware either.

The first of these is the utter incompetence of the battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the early stages of the U.S. operations there. Simply stated, no meaningful attempt at discrimination was made in-country by competent officials, civilian or military, as to who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation.

This was a factor of having too few troops in the combat zone, of the troops and civilians who were there having too few people trained and skilled in such vetting, and of the incredible pressure coming down from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others to “just get the bastards to the interrogators”.

It did not help that poor U.S. policies such as bounty-hunting, a weak understanding of cultural tendencies, and an utter disregard for the fundamentals of jurisprudence prevailed as well (no blame in the latter realm should accrue to combat soldiers as this it not their bailiwick anyway).

The second dimension that is largely unreported is that several in the U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.

But to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called Global War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers. They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim that everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released. I am very sorry to say that I believe there were uniformed military who aided and abetted these falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces.

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Regarding the “personal triumphs” of Kate Winslet’s character in the Oscar nominated The Reader:

What, exactly, was the Kate Winslet character’s “personal triumph”? While in prison for participation in an act of mass murder that was particularly gruesome and personal, given the generally impersonal extermination process—as a death camp guard, she helped ensure 300 Jewish women locked in a burning church would die in the fire—she taught herself to read! What a heartwarming fable about the wonders of literacy and its ability to improve the life of an Auschwitz mass murderer!

I have to admit I’m a big fan of Ron Rosenbaum’s Slate columns — especially when the subtitle includes “The worst [fill in the blank] ever.” This is an engaging analysis about the Hollywood trend to make implausible happy-end Holocaus stories. I recommend it highly.

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The Day the Clown Cried

Jerry Lewis in a film about the Holocaust? That’s what I said when a friend told me about The Day the Clown Cried. Truly unbelievable.

The infamous “lost” film of Jerry Lewis, which was buried due to a legal dispute between him and the writers of the original screenplay.

It tells the story of a self-centered circus clown, Helmut Doork, who is sent to a concentration camp after a drunken impersonation of Hitler. There, he befriends the Jewish children of the camp, and performs for them, angering the camp Commandant.  He is accidentally sent with the children on a train to Auschwitz, and here, he is expected to lead the children, like a Pied Piper, to the gas chambers.

Hard to believe.

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This video is actually not difficult to watch at all. If you have a George W. Bush phobia you can handle it. I suppose because he’s nothing like what we’ve come to hate.

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Once again George W. Bush explains that the failings of his presidency were due to bad marketing — his choice of poor words “that conveyed the wrong message.” If only he could have sold himself better, everything would have been A-okay.

“I regret saying some things I shouldn’t have said,” Bush told CNN’s Heidi Collins when asked to reflect on his regrets over his two terms as president. “Like ‘dead or alive’ and ‘bring ’em on.’ My wife reminded me that, hey, as president of the United States, be careful what you say.”

The interview, aboard the USS Intrepid in New York, came after the president addressed a Veterans Day ceremony.

Shortly after the attacks of September 11, the president said of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden: “I want justice. There’s an old poster out West that said, ‘Wanted, dead or alive.’ ”

Bush was also criticized in 2003 for his answer addressing insurgents in Iraq.

“There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring ’em on,” he said then.

On Tuesday, the president also referenced the moment aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, during which he declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq.

“They had a sign that said ‘Mission Accomplished.’ It was a sign aimed at the sailors on the ship, but it conveyed a broader knowledge. To some it said, well, Bush thinks the war in Iraq is over, when I didn’t think that. But nonetheless, it conveyed the wrong message.”

I can’t wait until the day when we have a president who has the marvelous ability to self-reflect.

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Whitewashing Stalin

I was telling a friend a rather embarrassing story of me telling a Georgian diplomat that of course I knew that Georgia was a country: “I know, Stalin’s home,” I said. To my surprise my friend launched into a speech that Stalin wasn’t really that bad. My friend is Chinese leading me to believe his communist upbringing influences his rather unorthodox opinion, at least for a westerner.

Then I read this article which describes how Stalin does not share the monstrous reputation of Hitler among many groups despite the fact that he too was responsible for millions of deaths. The article also mentions how Orwell’s Animal Farm had difficulty getting published due to Communist sympathies — sympathies that included the man of steel himself.

He had the blood of millions on his hands, yet Joseph Stalin has escaped Hitler-style demonisation, and even become a trendy pin-up. Why has history been so kind to this murderous leader, asks Laurence Rees.

A few months ago, when I was visiting one of our leading universities, I happened to see a poster prominently displayed in one of the students’ halls of residence. It was of Joseph Stalin.

Perhaps it was meant as a kind of ironic reference to something. Perhaps it was simply covering a damp patch on the wall. But, in any event, no one seemed to take much notice of it.

But imagine if instead of a picture of Stalin, there had been a picture of that other horrendous tyrant of the 20th Century, Adolf Hitler, hanging there? Think of the outcry.

Nor do most people in this country seem concerned that Stalin is currently on the shortlist to be named “Greatest Russian in History” in a Russian TV version of the BBC’s Great Britons. The final vote takes place in December. But once again, imagine if in Germany Adolf Hitler was in with a chance of winning the equivalent competition? The British press would be full of outrage.

It’s all symptomatic of a broader point. Which is that Stalin appears to have got off more lightly from the judgement of history – or at least the judgement of the British man or woman in the street – than he deserves. Stalin, after all, was responsible for the destruction of millions of people. His suspicion and paranoia condemned many wholly innocent individuals to torture and death.

Of Animal Farm, the article says:

One publisher during the war, who had initially accepted Animal Farm, subsequently turned it down after an official at the British Ministry of Information warned him off. The publisher then wrote to Orwell, saying: “If the fable were addressed generally to dictators and dictatorships at large then publication would be all right, but the fable does follow, as I see now, so completely the progress of the Russian Soviets and their two dictators [Lenin and Stalin], that it can apply only to Russia, to the exclusion of the other dictatorships.

“Another thing: it would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs. I think the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offence to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.”

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I saw the enlightening film Why We Fight when it came out a few years ago. In this article filmmaker Eugene Jarecki describes his unsettling experience with McCain. The whole article including video from the film is worth a look.

John McCain was featured prominently in my documentary film Why We Fight, which premiered at Sundance in 2005. In pre-screenings of the film across the country before its theatrical release, John McCain wowed audiences with his outspoken words onscreen. On the subject of misguided U.S. foreign policy, he said “Where the debate and controversy begins is how far does the United States go and when does it go from a force for good to a force of imperialism?” About defense industry corruption, he declared, “President Eisenhower’s concern about the military-industrial complex — his words have unfortunately come true.” In specific, McCain criticized not only the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war but even the contracting and billing practices of Halliburton.

Later when Jarecki talked to McCain’s advisor:

When next I heard from Salter, panic had grown to fury. He said the Senator’s critical comments
about the dangers of preemption and of American imperialism could give the mistaken impression McCain was opposed to the Iraq war and the Bush Administration broadly. But the moment in the film that was his greatest concern was when, responding to a question about the controversial awarding of no-bid contracts to Halliburton, McCain concedes, “It looks bad. It looks bad. And apparently, Halliburton more than once has overcharged the federal government. That’s wrong.” When pressed on how he would tackle this problem, McCain boldly declares, “I would have a public investigation of what they’ve done.”

At that moment in the film, a phone rings off-screen and Senator McCain is advised by a staffer
that Vice-President Cheney is calling. With a nervous laugh, the Senator excuses himself. “The
vice-president’s on the phone,” he stammers, rising and scrambling off-screen, leaving the
camera rolling on his empty chair. Different people see this scene differently. Some see McCain’s sudden departure as perfectly normal. He’s a high-ranking Senator, and the Vice-President is calling. Others see McCain’s departure as evidence of a too-close relationship with Cheney. They note a certain embarrassment in McCain’s body language. To yet a smaller, third group, McCain’s reaction underscores Dick Cheney’s omnipotence in Washington. Given the Administration’s penchant for wiretapping, one viewer laughingly told me he thought perhaps “Cheney had decided the interview had gone on long enough.”

Jokes aside, when McCain’s office voiced their concern about this moment, I expected, if
anything, they might fear the suggestion of uncomfortably close ties between McCain and Cheney. When Salter instead declared to me that I was “making it look like John McCain was critical of the Vice-President,” and that “Vice-President Cheney has nothing to do with Halliburton,” I realized that what he was objecting to was not that McCain might appeared too close to Cheney but rather not close enough. Mr. Salter demanded that I send him a transcript of the Senator’s interview, not just the parts that appear in the film. Since none of the film’s more than twenty other interviewees had been provided such a thing, and since I valued the film’s independence from political pressure, I told Mr. Salter I would seek advice from other journalists and get back to him.

Salter next resorted to threats, saying that, unless I complied, he would smear my name in the
media and exert pressure on the film’s principal funder never to work with me again. I said I
thought the BBC would be unlikely to welcome such pressure from an irate chief of staff to a
senator. Salter then changed gears, appealing to my sense of fairness. “When Senator McCain
sat down to talk to you,” he explained, “he thought he was talking to a television crew from the
BBC.” I said that that was true, but that the film had then gone on to win Sundance and secure a
theatrical release. But then something troubling about his remark dawned on me.

“If you don’t mind my asking,” I said, “are you suggesting there are things Senator McCain will
say to a British audience that he isn’t comfortable saying to the American people?”Needless to say, this didn’t help matters. But I wasn’t trying to be snide. My question was just the logical extension of what Salter had intimated. But it clearly touched a nerve. He became enraged and, after hanging up, sought to make good on his threat to tarnish my name and career.

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What is sacrifice?

I’ve always been a bit of a romantic. As I’ve said in earlier posts, I really bought into the idealism of the founding of the U.S. You know the checks and balances that have been withered away over so many presidents who cared more about power than they did about the idea of America. Anyway my point is that I am a romantic.

And my idea of sacrifice, the title of this post, is very romantic also. If you want something bad enough, sometimes you have to give something up in order to get that. And sometimes making a sacrifice is essential in order to get what you want. In Christianity, sometimes you make a sacrifice and get nothing in return, but you do that because you love God. Abraham lucked out a bit in that he didn’t really have to sacrifice Isaac to show his love for God.

In Twenty-First Century America (and I can only guess in other places as well) the idea of sacrifice is disappearing. People want to have their cake and eat it too. Let’s take climate change. Most everyone knows it’s happening, but rather than give up something to mildly avert it we say “I have a right to drive a single-occupant vehicle. Technology will save me.”

In Seattle right now, they are considering imposing a 20 cent bag fee for plastic bags at the supermarket. Many people are upset.

Them: It will drive up grocery costs.

Me: By $1.00?

Them: $1.00 is a lot to poor people.

Me: Everyone can bring reusable bags. Even poor people. The reusable bags will pay for themselves.

Them: I can’t remember to bring a bag with me every time.

Me: Yeah life stinks doesn’t it. Remembering things and all that.

I really don’t get it. If we know that plastic bags pollute our environment, how could a small inconvenience like bringing a cloth bag be so awful?

Convenience, convenience. We all need convenience.

Going back to gas prices. We know oil is polluting our environment, but rather than sustain an inconvenience like (gasp!) filling our tires correctly or (gasp!)  taking the bus, we say drill drill drill. Meanwhile our actions cause wars in the Middle East where real men and women make the very real sacrifice of their lives for us. For our convenience. It’s really quite twisted.

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The Human Condition

Last night I watched the first part in the trilogy The Human Condition (Ningen no jōken). The Japanese film takes place in Manchuria during World War II and begins when an idealist writes a thesis on getting more productivity out of workers by treating them decently. He is sent to an ore mine in Manchuria to test out his theories – only the bosses seem more struck by the more productivity aspect of his theory rather than the decent treatment. This film without a doubt exhibits the most stark self-reflection by any country in film. What I mean to say is that the film does not paint the Japanese in any sort of positive light with the exception of the hero of the story. What makes this so amazing is that the film was made in 1959. Even today Japan has been accused of inaccurately portraying or glossing over their horrific war record in Japanese text books.

The villains aren’t always evil. Sometimes they are apathetic. Sometimes they are nationalist. Our hero is the lone conscientious objector among so many who look the other way. What does it mean to be a human? This film seeks to answer that question.

You can find this image and videos of the film on crunchyroll.com.

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Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili on Wednesday called for John McCain and other American leaders to do more for Georgia in their response to the conflict in his country.

“Yesterday, I heard Sen. McCain say, ‘We are all Georgians now,’” Saakashvili said on CNN’s American Morning. “Well, very nice, you know, very cheering for us to hear that, but OK, it’s time to pass from this. From words to deeds.”

Chest thumping just doesn’t have the same affect these days.

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We are the enemy

The widow of US anthrax victim Robert Stevens has called for US government compensation for her husband’s death.

Maureen Stevens thanked the FBI for their investigation into Bruce Ivins, who killed himself last week after being told he was to be charged.

But she said it was “shocking” that the army scientist had been able to handle dangerous chemicals when he had a documented history of mental illness.

It is shocking isn’t it that in order to give ourselves “protection” from others we create biological weapons that end up being used on us? What else could we expect? Ironic that we claimed we went to war in Iraq because Sadaam Hussein was creating weapons of mass destruction. Of course, we ourselves would never do anything like that.

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A good short article by Arianna Huffington.

Republicans love to portray Obama as naïve when it comes to foreign policy. Let’s go to the scorecard. Iraq: Prime Minister Maliki just announced he supports Obama’s troop withdrawal plan. Afghanistan: Obama has long argued that Iraq has been a dangerous distraction from what should be the real focus of the war on terror, Afghanistan, and has recommended sending additional troops there. McCain, who has opposed sending additional troops, did an about-face on Tuesday, all but yelling “Me too!” Iran: Obama has taken a lot of GOP fire for his willingness to negotiate with Tehran. This week, we learned the Bush administration has decided to send a top diplomat to a meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, and is planning to open an “interests section” in Tehran. Score three for naiveté.

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I have this story of the time I went to Paris and I tried to find the Bastille only I was actually expecting to find the Bastille itself. I felt very stupid, but I have a friend who did the same thing so clearly it’s not that unusual. The confusion comes from the fact that the Bastille is a location on the map and that there is a monument. But there isn’t a Bastille.

July 14th is Bastille Day. Here’s a video describing the historical events.

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I like how Naomi Wolf always takes a subject that the average American may think is far removed from themselves and puts that subject in a context that is recognizable.

I had a sense of déjà vu when I saw the photos that emerged in 2004 from Abu Ghraib prison. Even as the Bush administration was spinning the notion that the torture of prisoners was the work of “a few bad apples” low in the military hierarchy, I knew that we were seeing evidence of a systemic policy set at the top. It’s not that I am a genius. It’s simply that, having worked at a rape crisis center and been trained in the basics of sex crime, I have learned that all sex predators go about things in certain recognizable ways.

All this may sound bizarre if you are a normal person, but it is standard operating procedure for sex offenders. Those who work in the field know that once sex abusers control a powerless victim, they will invariably push the boundaries with ever more extreme behavior. Abusers start by undressing their victims, but once that line has been breached, you are likely to hear from the victim about oral and anal penetration, greater and greater pain and fear being inflicted, and more and more carelessness about exposing the crimes as the perpetrator’s inhibitions fall away.

The perpetrator is also likely to engage in ever-escalating rationalizations, often arguing that the offenses serve a greater good. Finally, the victim is blamed for the abuse: in the case of the detainees, if they would only “behave,” and confess, they wouldn’t bring all this on themselves.

Silence, and even collusion, is also typical of sex crimes within a family. Americans are behaving like a dysfunctional family by shielding sex criminals in their midst through silence.

Via Huffingtonpost.

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This story has been well reported, so I don’t expect anyone reading this will be surprised, but I thought it might bring about a good topic for discussion and that is “is this guy psychotic or what?”

Bush has said many times that history will vindicate him as a president. I just have to wonder how can he possibly think that when he behaves so contemptibly. There is no doubt that humans are responsible for climate change which will have devastating consequences. History tells us this. So why blacken your name for the next century as the man who was such an idiot that he made a joke out of being the worst polluter at an environmental summit. It’s beyond belief and truly pathological.

I’ve only worked at country club, not been a member of one, and I think I can safely say this is the guy in the corner with the martini glass laughing at everyone. This is the guy at the country club who pisses on the cars. This is the guy who staunchly believes in wars and people dying in wars so long as it’s not him. What can you say about America, knowing that either this man was either elected president or stole the presidency and no one did anything about it. The country is just not worth verbally defending. When it comes to November, this country will truly get the leader it deserves.

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: “Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.”

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

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Via the New York Times.

As news spread across the world of Iran’s provocative missile tests, so did an image of four missiles heading skyward in unison. Unfortunately, it appeared to contain one too many missiles, a point that had not emerged before the photo appeared on the front pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as on BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, NYTimes.com and many other major news Web sites.

As the above illustration shows, the second missile from the right appears to be the sum of two other missiles in the image. The contours of the billowing smoke match perfectly near the ground, as well in the immediate wake of the missile. Only a small black dot in the reddish area of exhaust seems to differ from the missile to its left, though there are also some slight variations in the color of the smoke and the sky.

The source of the photo was the media arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The article is a good read.

Last week I watched Nova Science Now on PBS where Hany Farid was featured as a digital forensic scientist. It’s all fascinating stuff and you can pick out the phony picture on the web site.

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Duck and Cover

In light of this morning’s Iran missile tests, I thought it might be interesting to look at this film from 1950 on how to survive an Atomic bomb.

Amazing to think that a whole generation of kids grew up thinking an atomic threat was imminent. This film is scary. I mean that house that blows up — I can’t imagine what I would be thinking in the classroom watching that as a kid.

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It’s encouraging to know that it is the Iraqis themselves who may end this war and thus control their own destiny. Think about every justification you have ever heard about the war from George Bush. Those justifications are tremendously hollow when the liberated people don’t want you there.

Iraq will not accept any security agreement with the United States unless it includes dates for the withdrawal of foreign forces, the government’s national security adviser said on Tuesday.

The comments by Mowaffaq al-Rubaie underscore the U.S.-backed government’s hardening stance toward a deal with Washington that will provide a legal basis for U.S. troops to operate when a U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year.

On Monday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appeared to catch Washington off-guard by suggesting for the first time that a timetable be set for the departure of U.S. forces under the deal being negotiated, which he called a memorandum of understanding.

Rubaie said Iraq was waiting “impatiently for the day when the last foreign soldier leaves Iraq.”

So Congress, including a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, have failed to end this war. The Iraqis must be very proud to know they have the power to end it on their own.

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A man has been arrested after tearing the head off a wax figure of Adolf Hitler at a newly opened branch of Madame Tussauds in Berlin.

Police spokesman Bernhard Schodrowski said a security guard had been shoved aside by the attacker.

“He tried to prevent the man from acting but failed. The suspect, from the Kreuzberg district, pushed the man aside and lunged at the Adolf Hitler figure and ripped the head off.”

Another visitor, who was not named, said the man went straight to the Hitler figure and stepped behind the desk.

“I heard a rumbling and then he tore the figure down off the chair. The security was immediately there and tried to control him but it wasn’t easy, he defended himself. Additional security staff took him away then and I had to leave the place,” he said.

The attacker was only the second visitor to enter the exhibition, according to one report.

Can you blame him?

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Remember how we lost (literally) billions of dollars in Iraq? This needs to be read in full so I have posted it in full. The link to the article is here.

A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

For the first time, the extent to which some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding has been researched by the BBC’s Panorama using US and Iraqi government sources.

A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.

The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.

War profiteering

While George Bush remains in the White House, it is unlikely the gagging orders will be lifted.

To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.

The president’s Democrat opponents are keeping up the pressure over war profiteering in Iraq.

Henry Waxman who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said: “The money that’s gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious.

“It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history.”

In the run-up to the invasion one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth seven billion that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company, which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president.

Unusually only Halliburton got to bid – and won.

Missing billions

The search for the missing billions also led the programme to a house in Acton in West London where Hazem Shalaan lived until he was appointed to the new Iraqi government as minister of defence in 2004.

He and his associates siphoned an estimated $1.2 billion out of the ministry.

They bought old military equipment from Poland but claimed for top class weapons.

Meanwhile they diverted money into their own accounts.

Judge Radhi al-Radhi of Iraq’s Commission for Public Integrity investigated.

He said: “I believe these people are criminals.

“They failed to rebuild the Ministry of Defence , and as a result the violence and the bloodshed went on and on – the murder of Iraqis and foreigners continues and they bear responsibility.”

Mr Shalaan was sentenced to two jail terms but he fled the country.

He said he was innocent and that it was all a plot against him by pro-Iranian MPs in the government.

There is an Interpol arrest out for him but he is on the run – using a private jet to move around the globe.

He stills owns commercial properties in the Marble Arch area of London.

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