Policing International Drug Trafficking in Iran

Drugs: No Way Out

Press TV (2018)

Film Review

This is a very interesting documentary about the role of Iranian customs officials  in disrupting the flow of Afghan heroin to Europe. At present, Afghanistan (thanks largely to the CIA) is the world largest producer of opium and heroin. Between 2001-2010, the Afghan opium/heroin trade took in over $68 billion in revenue. Of this, $66 billion went to the drug “mafia” (CIA?), $2 billion to the Afghan government and $200 million to the Taliban insurgency.

The principal (shortest) route for transporting heroin to the lucrative European market is via Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey. Most of the illicit heroin is smuggled in trucks across the Turkmenistan border. Iranian customs officials also intercept a lot of diazepam (Valium) originating from Pakistan, where the drug is available without prescription.

At the Turkish border, Iran intercepts large volumes of hydrochloric and acetic acid. These chemicals are destined for Afghanistan, where they are used to refine opium into heroin. Large amounts of ephedrine (used to manufacture methamphetamine) and synthetic drugs (eg tramadol and ecstasy) are also intercepted at the Turkish border.

Former Guantanamo Detainee Exposes MI5 Role in Rendition

The Confession: The Story of Moazzam Begg

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

In this horrifying documentary, Moazzam Begg, who spent a year at Bagram prison and two ears at Guantanamo relates the history of his kidnapping and rendition from Islamabad (Pakistan), his rape and torture in both prisons, his release without charge in 2005 and his ongoing demonization by Islamophobic police, MI5 agents and British media.

Begg, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was born and grew up in the UK (Birmingham). After several beatings by skinheads, he paid a visit to Bosnia, where foreign Islamic fighters were supporting local Muslims during the NATO war against Yugoslavia. A short time later, he quit his job to open an Islamic bookshop in Birmingham. It was at this point he began to have regular contacts with an MI5 agent named Andrew.

In mid-2001, he was arrested under the Terrorism act, and British police raided his home and bookshop. The charges were dropped, and following his release, he moved his wife and three children to Afghanistan, which at that point was ruled by the Taliban.

Following the US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, he and his family fled to Islamabad. On Jan 21, 2002, a group of English-speaking men came to his home, kidnapped him and flew him to Kandahar prison in Afghanistan. There, after being threatened with rendition to Syria or Egypt for further torture and/or summary execution, he signed a confession admitting to membership in Al Qaeda. He reasoned that signing it would keep him alive long enough to stand trial.

Following the US invasion of Iraq, he was transferred to Bagram prison and from there to Guantanamo.

After his January 2005 release, he was briefly in custody in the UK and released without trial. It took three years to get his passport back. He then traveled to Egypt, Tunis, Libya and Turkey seeking further evidence of the US/UK rendition program. Under this process,  Muslim intellectuals were routinely kidnapped and “rendered” to totalitarian regimes (mainly Libya, Syria and Egypt), where they were tortured and forced to confess to Al Qaeda-related crimes.

In 2014, British police arrested him for the third time and he spent seven months in Belmarsh prison on a charge of training Syrian rebels and supplying them with an electrical generator. The case collapsed for lack of evidence. He believes this arrest stemmed from pure MI5 maliciousness for his efforts to expose their role in rendition and torture.

The video can’t be embedded for copyright reasons but can be viewed free at Confession: Story of Moazzim Begg

 

 

Al Jazeera vs Blackwater Founder Erik Prince

Erik Prince Acknowledges 2016 Trump Tower Meeting for First Time

Al Jazeera (2019)

Interview

This is a most revealing interview/debate in which Al Jazeera journalist Mehdi Hasan confronts Blackwater founder Erik Prince over his current proposal to replace 50,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan with 8,000 private military contractors – from Prince’s Hong Kong-based company Frontier Services Group.

In response to highly specific confrontations concerning Blackwater’s fraudulent billing and war crimes, Prince literally oozes sociopathy. In addition to blaming the US State Department for Blackwater’s well-documented war crimes, he blames a Blackwater contractor’s 2018 murder conviction on a Washington DC jury (DC has a majority Black population).

In 2012, Blackwater paid a $7.5 million settlement to resolve other criminal charges, including billing fraud

Prince has compared his proposed Afghanistan project to the notorious British East Indian Company that colonized India and Southeast Asia. When reminded that Ashraf Ghani, the current president of Afghanistan, opposes his proposal, Prince smugly assures Hasan that Ghani faces defeat at the next election.

When asked about his current contract with China’s government to build a training camp in Xinjiang (to help Beijing crack down on minority Uighers), Prince asserts his company is merely providing construction services and security training for overseas-bound Chinese officials. A recent article in the Guardian suggests otherwise: Blackwater’s Erik Prince to Build China Training Camp

Hasan also asks Prince about lying to the US Congressional Intelligence Committee about his involvement in a 2016 Trump campaign meeting with a Russian oligarch. Prince admits to the meeting but denies lying about it. When Hasan confronts him with the hearing transcript, Prince contends the transcriber got it wrong.

The interview can’t be embedded for copyright reasons but can be viewed free at the Al Jazeera website: Erik Prince Acknowledges Trump Tower Meeting For First Time

 

The Electronic Whorehouse

The Electronic Whorehouse

by Paul Sheehan

McMillan Australia (2003)

Although 15 years old, this book offers valuable historical insight into the major transformation of traditional media in the 21st century. Paul Sheehan is a columnist and former senior editor for for The Sydney Morning Herald. His book is pretty wide ranging. As a point of departure, he examines the simultaneous rise of Fox News and Alex Jones, just as total network news viewership dropped from 60 to 30%, with a comparable reduction in newspaper readership.

One of Sheehan’s most important points is that the rise of the Internet has ended exclusive control by politicians, bureaucrats, media executives and journalists over the flow of public information. A second relates to the role of Fox News in forging a divergence between the “cultural elite” (represented by the traditional TV networks and CNN) and “mainstreet.” In describing Fox News’ appeal to blue collar white workers and Christian evangelists (almost never reflected in network news coverage – despite representing 46% of the US population), Sheehan eerily foreshadows the Trump phenomenon and the battle currently being played out between Trump and heritage media.

Sheehan goes on to decry the growing blurring between news, opinion and entertainment, as well as the exponential growth of the public relations industry as the source of most western news.

His conservative political bias comes across loud and clear in his diatribe against so-called “economic” refugees*, who he claims cheat the asylum process, and antiglobalization protestors (like myself), who in his view are merely trade unions playing the system for higher wages.

Oh really? That’s news to me – and I’m sure to conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan, as well.


*With the chaos the US and allies have inflicted on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, the distinction between “economic” and “political” refugees has become purely arbitrary. When the basic infrastructure of a society has been totally destroyed, the question of basic survival becomes even more acute than if a refugee has received actual death threats.

 

 

A Closer Look at Trump Supporters

Trumpland

Fusion (2016)

Film Review

This documentary, filmed a month before the 2016 election, explores the life circumstances of a cross section of Trump supporters, referred to by Hillary Clinton as “deplorables.”

Commonalities shared by this demographic are

  • recent personal or family experience with job loss, bankruptcy or foreclosure.
  • strong feelings about Wall Street outsourcing manufacturing jobs to third world countries.
  • strong feelings about US politics being a “crooked” system set up to destroy the middle class.
  • strong opposition to their perceived corporate control of the two major political parties.
  • a perception that Trump, unlike other politicians, “can’t be bought.”

When answering filmmakers’ questions about Trump’s perceived racism and xenophobia, their replies vary. Some (especially women) feel that Black Lives Matter activists have a point about the abysmal way Black people are treated in the US. Others claim that Black people (and women) are demanding special privileges not enjoyed by white men.

Most deny that Trump is racist, claiming he only wants to prevent terrorist attacks by banning immigrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. They agree with his proposed wall because they believe his claims that most illegal Mexican immigrants are drug dealers and rapists. This flies in the face of research indicating undocumented immigrants (who are loathe to draw attention to themselves) commit far fewer crimes than either legal immigrants or native born Americans.

Deportees in Mexico: Unwanted by Either Side

US and The Wall: Deportees in Mexico Unwanted by Either Side

RT (2017)

This documentary explores the plight of newly deported immigrants  – many of whom have lived in the US more than 20 years and speak no Spanish. Most end up in Tijuana which, run by drug cartels, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Because they’re not local, it’s fairly common for Mexican police to detain deportees and steal their money.

The film profiles three main groups, volunteers who leave gallon jugs of water in the desert to prevent migrants from dying of thirst; armed vigilantes, drawn from former military and police personnel, who patrol the Arizona desert hunting down illegal immigrants; and US veterans who have started a shelter in Tijuana for veterans deported after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most were enticed to enlist with a promise of citizenship – only to be deported for minor crimes such as DUIs, drug possession, bad checks or firearms offenses. One veteran talks of pleading guilty based on a broken promise he wouldn’t be deported.

During the filming, the shelter is visited by seven Congress people concerned about the plight of deported veterans.

US Military Burnpits: The New Agent Orange?

In their August 1 episode of The Stream, Al Jazeera English explores the plight of US veterans and Iraqi and American civilians exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan and the US. Although Obama outlawed the use of war zone burn pits, they continue to operate on 200 military bases across the US.*

Historically burn pits have been used to dispose of munitions, metals, plastics, chemicals and corpses, releasing a host of toxic chemicals to the atmosphere.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) listed 110,989 veterans and service members in its latest burn pits registry. However, as with Agent Orange exposure, the VA has been slow to investigate burn pit related illnesses and routinely denies medical benefits to veterans who become chronically ill from burn pit exposure. They most commonly suffer from acute and debilitating respiratory illnesses and throat, lung and brain cancers and leukemia.

In addition to highlighting a recent study of the birth defects and medical problems of Iraqi women and children exposed to burn pit fumes, the program questions why the Pentagon continues to operate nearly 200 open burn pits around the United States. According to a recent ProPublica investigation, these sites are getting rid of extremely toxic materials with little or no oversight and regulation, and often violate existing environment regulations.

At the Colfax plant in Louisiana, millions of pounds of munitions are burned  just a few hundred yards from a small, mostly black community. High levels of toxic vapors like acrolein and benzene have been found in the air, which according to the World Health Organization have “no safe level of exposure.”

The program host interviews the widow of a US vet killed by burn pit exposure, as well as Iraqi and American scientists.


*Although President Obama outlawed the use of war-zone burned pits by executive order, a 2016 article in Stars and Stripes  suggests US military bases continue to use them in Iraq.