The 1972 US Coup Against Australia

Hot Money and the Politics of Debt

RT Naylor

McGill-Queens University Press (2004)

Book Review

Hot Money is about the trillions of dollars of global financial activity that is never recorded in official economic statistics. Corporate money laundering of illegal narcotics profits is the form of “hot money” that gets the most publicity. However according to Naylor, it accounts for a relatively small proportion of “hot money” percolating through offshore banks and dummy corporations.

Most “hot money” starts out as funds generated via “legitimate” business which rich elites sebd offshore to avoid taxes or in anticipation of economic calamity or regime change. All the world’s most ruthless dictators stashed funds in Swiss banks or similar financial havens prior to being deposed.

A sizeable chunk of hot money is generated from other illegal enterprises, such as gun running, illegal arms deals, prostitution, phony charities and religious groups (eg Reverend Moon’s Unification Church and L Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology) and government agencies (eg CIA) who use “hot money” to finance coups and insurgencies.

For me, the high point of Hot Money  is the excellent history Naylor provides of the CIA role in the world heroin and cocaine trade, especially their move to make Afghanistan the major global supplier of heroin.

Nalylor also provides a detailed history about the role of the Vatican Bank as a “hot money” center, the rise and fall of Propaganda Due (P2), a secret collaboration between the CIA, Mafia and right wing Masonic lodges that infiltrated all aspects of Italian public life in the 1970s; the role of Nazi war criminals Klaus Barbie and Josef Mengele in setting up Latin American death squads and cocaine networks; the rise and fall of the two biggest CIA banks, Australia’s Nugan Hand Bank and the Bank of Commerce and Credit International;  and the importance of “hot money” in the Iran Contra scandal, in which the Reagan administration illegally sold weapons to Iran to finance the Contra war against Nicaragua.

The most shocking chapter describes the role of the Nugan Hand Bank in funding a bloodless coup US Naval Intelligence carried out against Australia in 1972 – to remove a prime minister whose political views were inconsistent with US interests. Most Americans are totally unaware of this heinous attack against a close US ally. I’ve only learned of it since moving to New Zealand (Australia is New Zealand’s closest neighbor).

Psychedelics: A Miracle Cure for PTSD?

Soldiers of the Vine

Directed by Charles Shaw (2016)

Film Review

This documentary traces the experience of six US veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who undergo treatment with the psychedelic ayahuasca, owing to their failure to respond to conventional treatment.*

Ex-GIs who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer extremely high rates of PTSD, traumatic brain injury and suicidal depression. They commit suicide at twice the rate of the general population and US prisons, mental hospitals and homeless shelters are full of disabled veterans.

Studies show that psychedelic drugs, such as ayahuasca and ibogaine** are often helpful in treating heroin addiction and alcoholism. Their use in PTSD is still experimental.

In the film the six veterans travel to the Amazon jungle, where ayahasca is viewed as a sacred plant, to undergo a nine day healing ceremony with an indigenous shaman.


*Western medicine has no recognized treatment for PTSD.

**Ibogaine is legal for treating drug addiction in over 190 countries, including Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Russia, China and Ukraine. See Why Are We Sending Vets to Costa Rico (and Canada and Mexico).

Trump: Expanding the Parameters of Permissible Debate

Lies Wars and Empire

By Michael Parenti (2007)

In this presentation, Michael Parenti focuses on the science of media manipulation and mass indoctrination. He makes his most important point at the end: mass indoctrination never works perfectly. Spontaneous skepticism tends to be a natural outcome of a steady diet of media propaganda. I suspect this healthy skepticism is a major reason why Trump’s attacks on the corporate media have been so popular – and why counterattacks by US intelligence and the mainstream media have been so savage.

Trump is the highest profile politician to ever publicly challenge the official version of 9-11, the job-killing effects of free trade treaties such as TPP and NAFTA, the threats to democratic process posed by investing power in a private central bank (the Federal Reserve) and the long term safety of America’s multiple vaccination regime in children.

Parenti begins with an explanation why, in most cases, peoples’ beliefs are totally impervious to facts. He reminds us that our perceptions are shaped by a number of factors beyond our control, particularly income, status, background assumptions and disinformation.

He maintains that what passes for objectivity in the mainstream media is really conformity of bias – nearly always in favor of corporate capitalism and the status quo. Owing to this emphasis on conformity, expressing a dissenting viewpoint viewed as a radical activity, mainly because it helps expose and expands the boundaries of permissible debate. Because the corporate media only allows an extremely narrow range of debate, you will never see a open discussion of evidence implicating the government in 9-11 or  the JFK, Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King assassinations.

This lecture examines numerous world events deliberately censored or distorted by the corporate media:

  • The war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic (who died under suspicious circumstances in prison in 2006).
  • The stolen 2004 election (in which election fraud in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida and Arizona wrongly awarded the electoral vote to Bush).*
  • The repeated claim that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 – the Afghan government requested assistance from the Soviets to restore order in the face of a major CIA destablization campaign.
  • Saddam Hussein’s 40-year role as a CIA asset in the coup overthrowing Iraqi prime minister Abd al-Karim Qasim and declaring war on Iran.

*See Stolen Elections

How the CIA Used LSD to Destroy the New Left

drugs-as-weapons

Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA’s Murderous Targeting of SDS, Panthers, Hendrix, Lennon, Cobain, Tupac and Other Activists

by John L Potash

Trine Day LLC (2015)

Book Review

Drugs as Weapons Against Us is a virtual encyclopedia of the global drug trade. Author John L Potash devotes special attention to the long involvement of the British and US government in illegal trafficking – for the political and financial benefit of the elite families who control these governments. Most of the book focuses on MKUltra, the top secret CIA program devoted to developing and experimenting with mind altering drugs such as LSD, MDA (an ecstasy precursor), STP, PCP and scopolamine.

Although CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MK-Ultra records destroyed in the mid-seventies, 30,000 pages of documents were preserved in the CIA Finance Department. Meticulously researched and footnoted, Drugs as Weapons relies on an extensive variety of sources, including the 30,000 pages, FOIA releases, police files, whistleblower statements, media and alternative media investigations and other prominent researchers such as Peter Dale Scott, Alfred, McCoy, Alex Constantine, Catherine Austin Fitts, and the late Gary Webb and Michael Rupert.

Using MKUltra to Target Leftists and Radical Pop Stars

As the title suggests, Potash is mainly interested in the CIA’s use of LSD (with the help of British intelligence, which ran a parallel MKUltra program at the Tavistock Clinic) to “neutralize” leftists and activist pop stars, such as Paul Robeson, Mick Jagger, Abbie Hoffman, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.*

Like many activists, I am well aware of the CIA’s historic role in heroin trafficking in Southeast Asia and in cocaine trafficking in Latin America. However prior to reading Drugs as Weapons, I was totally unaware they were also responsible for most of the LSD produced between 1955 and 1973 – for the specific purpose of “neutralizing” the New Left in Berkeley, at Columbia University and elsewhere. This particular MKUltra project was conceived in response to a 1962 Rand Corporation study recommending that getting left wing leaders hooked on LSD could “cause them to resign or become inactive.”

The Haight Ashbury was a CIA Invention

I was particularly horrified to learn about the LSD distribution network MKUltra agents set up in the Haight Ashbury to lure Berkeley students away from the nationally influential Free Speech movement. The latter, originally formed in 1957 to protest the anti-democratic activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House on Un-American Activities Committee, went on to inspire the national anti-Vietnam War Movement.

In addition to various MKUltra scientists and agents, the CIA also relied on a number of high profile personalities – LSD guru Timothy Leary (an admitted CIA asset), author Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and Grateful Dead band members – to promote and distribute LSD as an alternative to organizing against the Vietnam War.

How the Opium Trade Created America’s First Millionaires

Potash begins his book with important historical background on the origins of the global drug trade, which he traces back to 1500 and which European elites relied on heavily to finance imperial expansion and colonization. He also recounts the history of important Wall Street families – the Cabots, Cushings, Bushes, Astors, Russells, Pierponts (JP Morgan’s family) – who all owe their immense wealth to the opium trade the British involuntarily forced on China via the Opium Wars. The investment of these families in illegal drug trafficking continues to the present day, as evidenced by the involvement of all major US banks in multibillion dollar drug money laundering.

The Russell family, who would go on to found Yale and the Skull and Bones Society, openly used a skull and bones pirate flag on their opium trading ships.

The Vietnam War: Protecting Wall Street Drug Interests

Potash also carefully details the special relationship between these Wall Street families and the intelligence agency they founded during World War II (the OSS, which became the CIA in 1947) to protect their special interests. This comes out really clearly in the chapter in which Potash traces the origins of the Vietnam War. He makes a really strong case that this war (which began in the late fifties as a CIA intervention) stemmed directly from CIA determination to protect Golden Triangle opium production from efforts by nationalist leaders in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam to eradicate it.

One of Mao’s first acts after winning control of China was to destroy the country’s vast opium network. With the support of the CIA, the nationalist Chinese generals who had controlled it moved their networks into Burma, Laos and Thailand.

The Link Between CIA-backed Nazi War Criminals and Colombian Cocaine

In a similar vein, the CIA assisted Klaus Barbie and other Nazi war criminals it smuggled out of Germany in setting up a cocaine production and distribution network in Colombia and later the Afghan Mujaheddin in turning their country into the world’s largest producer of heroin.

Potash makes a compelling case that the proximate cause for the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in October 2001 was the Taliban’s successful eradication of opium production earlier that year.


*The cases of radical pop stars and activists targeted with LSD and other drugs (in many cases along with witnesses and key investigators) Potash examines include

  • Paul Robeson – African American singer whose career was destroyed when he was involuntarily dosed with LSD and committed for two years to a psychiatric hospital, where he received 54 electroconvulsive treatments,
  • Richard Wright – African American writer involuntarily dosed with LSD who later died under extremely suspicious circumstances.
  • Elvis Presley – became addicted to amphetamines and narcotics after covert intelligence officer became his manager.
  • Mama Cass Elliott – died under mysterious circumstances at age 32 after starting to date an international drug smuggler with suspected intelligence links.
  • Abbie Hoffman –introduced to LSD by roommate who worked for Army Intelligence research LSD effects on unconsenting GIs.
  • Mick Jagger – involuntarily dosed with LSD and subject to numerous drug frame-ups and two unsuccessful Hell’s Angels (working closely with US intelligence) assassination attempts.
  • Brian Jones – subject to numerous drug frame-ups and intense phone harassment and stalking prior to 1969 murder (which police covered up as “accidental” drowning).
  • Jimi Hendrix – intelligence-linked manager strongly implicated in death related to involuntary drugging.
  • Janis Joplin – introduced to amphetamines and heroine via intelligence-linked boyfriend, died after “friend” slipped her a bolus of pure CIA heroin.
  • John Lennon – involuntarily dosed with LSD and framed on bogus cannabis charge. Lennon’s alleged assassin Mark Chapman had strong intelligence links and appeared to be under influence of scopolamine.
  • Bob Marley – involuntarily injected with the cancer-causing chemical methlychoanthine (via a copper wire hidden in boots gifted to him by CIA asset Carl Colby) and subsequently died of fibrosarcoma.
  • Kurt Cobain – involved in heavy drug use by his wife Courtney Love, who had shadowy underworld and intelligence connections. Cobain allegedly shot himself in the head with a shotgun after consuming so much heroin he would have lost consciousness before he could pull the trigger.
  • Huey Newton – initiated into heavy cocaine use by girlfriend/undercover agent. Witnesses maintain he was shot after a failed attempt to kidnap him, discrediting police disinformation about “a drug deal gone bad.”
  • Tupac Shakur – multiple assassination attempts and police frame ups. Coerced, as part of a bail agreement, into signing with Death Row records (see The FBI War on Rap). The latter was run by Los Angeles police intelligence unit and heavily involved in drug and gun trafficking. Killed in drive-by shooting instigated by US intelligence.
  • Eminem – initiated into heavy drug use via undercover intelligence “friends” after helping Afeni Shakur (following Tupac’s assassination) to record many of Tupac’s songs.

Originally published in Dissident Voice

Untold History of the US – Bush and Obama Age of Terror

Part 10 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States covers the Bush II and Obama presidency.

The Bush II Presidency

Stone begins this section by reminding viewers that Al Gore won the 2000 election by 540,000 votes. He asserts Gore would also have won the electoral college if the Supreme Court hadn’t intervened and stopped the recount in Florida.

Under the heavy influence of Vice President Dick Cheney and other Project for a New American Century (PNAC) members, Bush immediately withdrew from the International Criminal Court treaty (which Clinton supported), the Nuclear Test Ban Treat, the Kyoto Accord and the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty. He also suspended US-led talks for Korean unification and for peace in Israel-Palestine.

Following 9-11 (which Stone refers to as the new Pearl Harbor PNAC called for), Bush launched illegal wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to authorizing the illegal indefinite detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo, he also authorized the use torture and significantly expanded the US of “extraordinary rendition”* by the CIA, a program started by Clinton.

During his two terms as president, Bush doubled the defense budget, forcing massive cuts in domestic spending – which Stone maintains destroyed the US economy.

Meanwhile he pushed the Patriot Act through Congress to suppress domestic dissent against these policies.

The Obama Presidency

Stone begins this segment by reminding us that Obama rejected public campaign financing in 2008. His opponent John McCain, in contrast, accept public financing. As a result, Obama received all the major donations from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street banks. This enabled him to significantly outspend McCain.

Stone blasts Obama for campaigning as the anti-war, change candidate. Who immediately on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, massively increased troop numbers in Afghanistan, as well as expanding the war on terror to Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and the Philippines.

In addition to continuing NATO expansion to increase the likelihood of war with Russia, Obama significantly expanded the southern military command (SouthCom) to target democratic populism in South America (eg Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina). In 2008 he created AfriCom a sixth military command aimed at countering Chinese investment in Africa.

Obama has also significantly increased the likelihood of war with China by encircling them with new troop deployment and sophisticated nuclear weapons systems.


*Extraordinary rendition is the term used when the CIA kidnaps criminal or terrorist suspects in a foreign country and secretly (and illegal) transports them to a country known to engage in torture.

Untold History of the US: Rise of the New Right

Part 8 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States covers the Ford, Carter and Reagan presidencies.

The Ford Presidency

Gerard Ford, appointed to the vice presidency after corruption charges forced the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew, assumed the presidency (with Nelson Rockefeller as vice president) when Nixon resigned in 1974. Ford’s most notable foreign policy was to end the détente* negotiations Nixon initiated with the Soviets to minimize the risk of nuclear war.

The Carter Presidency

Peanut farmer and former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter narrowly defeated Ford in 1976 on a platform that promised to end the arms race, reinstate détente negotiations and end US military intervention in third world countries.

According to Stone, Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (also Obama’s long time member) destroyed Carter’s presidency by forcing Carter (who had no foreign policy experience) to renege on his election promises. Under pressure from Brzezinski, Carter refused to return the Shah to Iran for trial following the 1978 Iranian revolution,** as well as restoring military aid to El Salvador’s right wing dictatorship in 1980 and secretly funding and training a jihadist Muslim insurgency to oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The Reagan Presidency

Like Carter, former California governor Ronald Reagan also had no foreign policy experience and allowed anti-communist CIA and Pentagon hawks to fill this vacuum. Under Reagan, CIA director William Casey stripped the CIA of any officials who resisted his policy of falsely blaming the Soviets for CIA-inspired terrorist activities. Casey also started the illegal Contra army that tried to overthrow Nicaragua’s democratically elected government, in addition to funding and training death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala to assassination union officials, intellectuals and human rights advocates. Casey and National Security Council member Oliver North also initiated the illegal arms deal with Iran that financed the Contras after Congress discontinued their funding.

In 1985 President Mikhail Gorbachev approached Reagan about negotiating a bilateral disarmament package that would phase out all nuclear weapons by 2000. Initially receptive, Reagan rejected Gorbachev’s condition that the US keep their Strategic Defense (Star Wars) Initiative in the lab. Reagan also refused Gorbachev’s proposal to participate in a joint peacekeeping force in Afghanistan following Soviet troop withdrawal.

Reagan left office in 1988 in disgrace over the Irangate scandal. He was also responsible for doubling the national debt, thanks to a massive increase in military expenditures coupled with sizeable tax cuts. In 1985, the US switched from being a creditor nation to being the biggest debtor nation.


*Détente is defined as the easing of hostility or strained relations between countries.

**This decision would cost Carter the 1980 presidential race when Iranian militants took 52 US Embassy employees hostage in 1979.

Part 8: Reagan, Gorbachev & Third World: Rise Of The Right

The 14 Year War the US Lost

Two days ago, Obama announced he was redeploying  several hundred more troops to Afghanistan as “advisers” to the Afghan army, while grossly minimizing the reality that the Taliban controls most of the country outside of Kabul. 

This is Taliban Country

Al Jazeera (2014)

Film Review

In This is Taliban Country a Danish journalist visits Afghanistan to examine the ongoing campaign by the Taliban to win the “hearts and minds” of the civilian population in the regions under their control.

It’s an open secret that the US lost their 14 year war on the Taliban, even before Obama’s partial draw down of US troops in 2014-2015.* The Taliban, which controls large swathes of territory outside of Kabul, generally enjoys the support of civilians under their rule. They provide the security and stability most Afghans crave after decades of civil war. Moreover they do so far more benevolently than either the corrupt Afghan government with their network of warlords or US occupiers.

For civil complaints (land disputes, unpaid bills, etc), most residents prefer the Taliban courts to the corrupt government courts (the verdict always depends on who you know). The interpretation of Shariah law varies depending on locale, but most inflict “cruel and unusual” punishments (stoning, chopping off hands and occasionally heads) for serious “crimes” such as adultery.

The Taliban is currently engaged in an ambitious PR campaign to improve their public image as they consolidate their power in Afghanistan. They have allowed some state schools to reopen, including a few primary schools for girls. There is little support for girls’ secondary education, as most Afghan girls marry when they reach puberty.

Taliban leaders claim to have learned from past mistakes. It’s no longer a crime for men to shave their beards or women to appear in public without a burqa. Unlike fifteen years ago, when they first took power, they now allow smoking cigarettes and marijuana and watching TV. Music is still banned.


*Obama halted the withdrawal of US troops in October 2015, when he announced five to ten thousand troops would remain in Afghanistan through 2017.

The History of Wikileaks

WikiRebels

Directed by Bosse Lindquist, Jesper Huor (2010)

Film Review

WikiRebels is a documentary about the history of Wikileaks. It traces Julian Assange’s early history from his first arrest for computer hacking at 21. A short time later, posting a secret Church of Scientology manual on-line would lead to a run-in with with a private investigator they hired to track him down in Australia.

Convinced that disclosure of government corruption could serve as a preventative against abuse of power, he and a global network of hactivists registered Leak.com in 1999. Inspired by the collaborative nature of Wikipedia, they changed their name to Wikileaks in 2006. Their goal was to publish evidence of government criminality while simultaneously guaranteeing whistleblowers absolute anonymity.

Some of Wikileaks’s earliest disclosures include the Kenyan president who was embezzling funds and organizing death patrols to target political opponents; the private company dumping toxic waste in the Ivory Coast; email messages from the private account Sarah Palin used to conduct government business; and lists of websites being censored by China, Thailand and Iran.

Enter Bradley Manning

In early 2010, Private Bradley Manning leaked over 100,000 classified military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks.  These files provide an hour by hour chronicle of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including details of casualties (on both sides) that the Bush and Obama administration had deliberately concealed.

Recognizing he had no way of releasing such a massive amount of data in in a meaningful way, Assange shared the leaked documents with the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, in the hope of widely publicizing them.

The most famous file Manning released is the July 12, 2007 “Collateral Murder File” showing US attack helicopter personnel deliberately firing on unarmed civilians in Baghdad.

US Government Retaliation

The US government instantly retaliated against Assange by leaning on Visa, Mastercard and PayPal to discontinue payment services on the Wikileaks website. This was in addition to threats made in Congress to either assassinate him or kidnap him and try him for espionage.

In August 2010, Assange receives a rock star welcome in Sweden when he arrives for a speaking tour. Within days, he finds himself accused of sexual assault. After comparing notes, two female fans approached Swedish police about compelling him to have an HIV test. After bringing him in for questioning, the police release him without charge.

Filmed in 2010, the documentary ends here – before Assange leaves Sweden for England, a second prosecutor reinstates the charges, a British court orders his extradition to Sweden and he seeks sanctuary in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy. Assange fears, as do his supporters, that the Swedish authorities will extradite him to the US, which has laid the groundwork to try (and execute) him on espionage charges.

According to Mother Jones, the sexual assault charges are extremely murky, especially since the woman he’s accused of raping has asked to have the charges dropped. Assange denies forcing either woman to have sex with him. In both cases, the actual accusation is that he had sex without a condom. In one instance, the condom broke. In the other, after having sexual intercourse with a condom, he allegedly initiated intercourse a second time while the woman was half asleep and refused to put on a condom.

In Sweden, the official term is “withdrawal of consent.” Without knowing all the facts, it’s impossible to ascertain, it’s impossible to ascertain whether one or both women did, in fact, withdraw consent.

However the timing of the charges, the fact that one woman has CIA links and the possible role Republican puppet master Karl Rove (a long time adviser to Swedish Swedish Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt) Karl Rove played in the affair all suggest Assange may have been framed.

Recently it was announced  that the Swedish prosecutor has finally agreed to come to London to question Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

 

Exposing the Myth of Capitalist Democracy

Lifting the Veil: Barack Obama and the Failure of Capitalist Democracy

Scott Noble (2013)

Film Review

Lifting the Veil is a well-crafted expose of the myth of so-called capitalist democracy Based on interviews and archival footage of Senator Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, George Carlin, Glen Ford, Harold Pinkley, John Pilger, Richard Wolfe, William I. Robinson, Bill Moyers and other prominent dissidents, it makes an ironclad case that democracy is impossible under a capitalist economic system.

Using Obama’s extensive list of broken campaign promises as a starting point, Noble convincingly demonstrates how Wall Street corporations have seized absolute control over all America’s so-called democratic institutions. In addition to highlighting the essential role team Obama played in crippling a large, highly vocal antiwar movement, he presents historical examples to reveal how this has been the traditional role of the Democratic Party in the US – to co-opt social movements that threaten the status quo.

The first half of the film focuses on Obama’s 2008 campaign and his long list of promises to reverse specific abuses of George W Bush’s government. In a series of archival clips, we see Obama promising to

• Restore habeas corpus
• Close Guantanamo
• End government secrecy
• End wireless surveillance
• Stop foreclosures instead of enriching bank CEOS
• Expose corporate backers of tax and corporate welfare legislation
• End torture
• End extraordinary rendition*
• Withdraw from Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan in 2011
• Pass banking regulation to prevent a new Wall Street collapse

Besides breaking every single one of these promises, Obama enacted new policies that were even more oppressive and pro-corporate than Bush’s. Among them were an indefinite detention provision in the NDAA, an executive order giving himself power to assassinate American citizens, the new war in Pakistan and Libya and $7 billion in loans guarantees for the moribund nuclear industry.

The film makes the point that the 2008 election was merely a PR exercise in marketing Brand Obama and had absolutely nothing to do with the candidate’s political agenda.

My favorite segments were those in which comedian George Carlin explains to audiences how powerful corporations sucker them into believing they live in a democracy.

The film ends on an optimistic note with a sampling of opinion polls indicating that more than 60% of Americans oppose the pro-corporate agenda Obama has foisted on them: 63% of Americans would pay higher taxes to guarantee health care for everyone, 70% oppose nuclear power, 81% want to reduce the deficit by taxing the rich and cutting the military budget and only 3% support cutting Social Security.

The only criticism I would have of Lifting the Veil is that it fails to offer specific solutions for Americans seeking to get their democracy back. The dissidents featured are pretty much unanimous that Americans need to stop looking to electoral politics as a way to reform either government or the economic system. However they are a little vague on what activists should do other than protesting and engaging in civil disobedience. Neither is likely to accomplish significant change without serious organizing and movement building to develop alternatives to the current system of government.

Given a lot of this movement building is already occurring in Spain, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Mexico and South America and it would have been great to see examples of what this looks like.


*Extraordinary rendition is the kidnapping and transfer of a detainee to the custody of a foreign government for purposes of detention, interrogation and torture.

His Weirdness Donald Rumsfeld

The Unknown Known

Errol Morris (2013)

Film Review

The Unknown Known is the weirdest documentary I’ve ever seen. The subject is former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his reflections on the disastrous War in Iraq. A third of the footage is archival and the other two-thirds consists of face-to-face interviews via a device director Errol Morris refers to as the Interrotron.

The film appears to have two goals: 1) to capture the essence of the major architect of America’s illegal wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq and 2) to allow him to reflect, in hindsight, exactly where things went wrong. As he expresses in the post-film discussion below, he fails on both scores. Morris totally fails to penetrate what Forbes describes as Rumsfeld’s “linguistic obfuscation.”

Unlike Robert McNamara (Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson), who expressed genuine regret over Vietnam in Morris’s 2003 documentary The Fog of War, Rumsfeld maintains his management of the US war in Iraq was flawless.

The documentary is framed around the tens of thousands of memos Rumsfeld issued over the course of his career. There were so many of them that his subordinates referred to them as “snowflakes.” This approach works well because all Rumsfeld’s decisions around the War on Terror are reflected in specific memos.

The most consistent criticisms around Rumsfeld’s role in the Iraqi occupation were his failure to involve other members of the Bush administration in decision making and his failure to make specific plans for a post-invasion government. When Morris asks about these critiques of his job performance, Rumsfeld bats them away, as he did in many press briefings, with clever word play or by quibbling over definitions.

For example when asked about the non-existent weapons of mass destruction the Bush administration used as a pretext for invading Iraq, he repeats the infamous line he gave reporters: “Absence of evidence doesn’t prove something doesn’t exist.”

Morris uses early memos to reconstruct Rumsfeld’s term in Congress (1962-1970) and his service in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administration. My favorite part of the film is an excerpt from the infamous Nixon White House tapes in which Nixon, Haldeman and Kissinger agree to fire Rumsfeld for being manipulative and untrustworthy.

As Ford’s Secretary of Defense, he strongly opposed détente, a policy started under Nixon to improve understand and ease tensions with the Soviet Union. As he expresses in one of his memos, the prospect of peace with the Soviets was making Congress and the American public reluctant to invest in defense infrastructure.

As the quagmire in Iraq caused George W Bush’s popularity to plummet, the President would sack Rumsfeld in December 2006 and replace him with Robert Gates, an official from Bush senior’s administration.

The title of the documentary is taken from an infamous example of Rumsfeld verbal gymnastics during a press briefing:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1uhheq_the-unknown-known_shortfilms

 

In the clip below, Morris frankly discusses his own feelings about the documentary